Not only is it usually considered OK to play sports or participate in recreational activity while undergoing degenerative disc disease treatment, it is often recommended by physicians as a way to potentially avoid back surgery. A sedentary lifestyle is one of the chief factors in the development of back or neck pain related to the deterioration of an intervertebral disc. Even after the onset of pain, tingling, numbness, or muscle weakness sometimes associated with disc degeneration, a doctor will typically include some form of exercise in the initial treatment plan. The bottom line? In most cases, patients can (and should) continue to participate in physical activity as long as participation doesn’t exacerbate the problem.
Studies Support Continued Physical Activity
Because no two cases are alike, each patient who undergoes degenerative disc disease treatment should work closely with his or her doctor to develop a regimen specifically designed to manage the existing symptoms. That said, it is generally accepted that exercise is an important part of just about any treatment plan. This idea is supported by a pair of studies that explored the effect of recreational physical activity on the outcomes related to back pain. One was conducted by researchers from UCLA and published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2005. The other was a collaboration among several researchers in Europe and was published in the European Spine Journal in 2011.
The UCLA study concluded that a patient’s focus should be more on nonspecific physical activities like sports, rather than on specific back exercises. The European study concluded that while there was no evidence that physical activity helped alleviate pain, the overall benefits of staying active could provide short-term and long-term benefits for patients. Both endorse exercise as a viable treatment method for patients with back or neck pain.
Use Common Sense
Of course, only you can know for sure how much you can push it when you are suffering from pain and other symptoms related to disc deterioration. It is vital to work closely with a doctor or physical therapist to determine what forms of physical activity or athletic endeavor are acceptable. And even though it is important to remain as active as possible while undergoing degenerative disc disease treatment, it is equally important to avoid activity that might make the problem worse. Talk to your doctor about finding a balance between staying active and giving your body the rest it needs.