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Recovery & Support for Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative disc disease is a chronic condition, and symptoms may often come and go. Whether you’ve had spine surgery or pursue nonsurgical treatment, NYU Langone doctors and rehabilitation specialists provide ongoing medical care and support to help you manage symptoms and remain active.

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Exercise and Physical Therapy

Physiatrists—doctors who specialize in rehabilitation medicine—and physical therapists at Rusk Rehabilitation encourage people with degenerative disc disease to remain as active as possible. This may mean working with a physical therapist to build muscle strength and function in the spine, or incorporating spine exercises into a home or gym routine.

Regular movement helps keep spinal bones and joints healthy by increasing nutrient-rich blood flow. Stretching and conditioning muscles surrounding the lower back or neck provide additional support for the spine and improve flexibility and range of motion. Low-impact exercises, such as swimming, tai chi, and yoga, may help relieve pain, maintain a healthy weight, and keep your entire body fit.

After Surgery

Physical therapy is also an important part of recovery from spine surgery. Our therapists work closely with you to create a plan for returning to your usual activities and preventing further spine damage. They can also teach you gentle stretches and exercises to help you manage pain after surgery.

Many people can stand or walk the same day of surgery, but everyone is different. In the hours after surgery, a rehabilitation doctor may visit you to discuss how you feel and how much physical activity you’re able to do.

During the first few weeks after surgery, a physical therapist can help you increase mobility. He or she teaches you exercises for increasing strength in the abdomen, thighs, and buttocks. These core muscle groups support the spine and act as a built-in brace. The stronger they are, the less pressure is put on the spine.

In order to recover fully and obtain good results from your surgery, the exercises taught by a therapist should become a regular part of your exercise routine.

Mind-Body Wellness

NYU Langone doctors, physical and occupational therapists, and psychiatrists offer programs and services designed to help you feel better and reduce stress. These include acupressure, acupuncture, and meditation, as well as guidance on how to create a comfortable workspace.

In addition, psychotherapy is available for people who may benefit from talking about how symptoms of degenerative disc disease affect their emotional wellbeing. Our doctors understand that chronic pain can lead to anxiety and depression. Therapy can help you feel better physically and mentally.

Tobacco Cessation

Research suggests that nicotine in cigarettes and other tobacco products may accelerate degeneration in intervertebral discs. Nicotine has also been proven to have a negative effect on bones and their ability to heal.

Our doctors and therapists understand that quitting is not easy and are here to help you every step of the way through our Tobacco Cessation Programs.

Weight Loss

Maintaining a healthy weight is important for spine health. Each time you walk or bend, the spine bears the weight of the body, relying on the discs between vertebrae to absorb much of the force. Excessive weight adds stress to the spine and discs and may accelerate degeneration.

Doctors at NYU Langone’s Weight Management Program can help you make positive changes to reach and maintain a healthy weight.

Our Research and Education in Degenerative Disc Disease

Learn more about our research and professional education opportunities.