Not actually a “disease” in the true sense of the word, degenerative disc disease (DDD) is the term used to describe spinal disc pain associated with age-related wear or accelerated wear and tear. It can become a problem that affects the ability to work if nearby nerves are irritated or compressed by a damaged, misaligned, or deformed disc.
The resulting nerve pain can extend to nearby areas and be experienced as numbness, tingling sensations, muscle weakness, or stiffness. Balance, flexibility, and range of motion may be affected as well. If you’re currently living with disc-related issues of this nature, you may be wondering if you can keep working. There’s no simple answer to this question, but there are some things to consider as you make this determination.
The answer to this question will depend on what you normally do for a living. If you have a more physically demanding job that involves carrying heavy items, lifting, or twisting, you may need to take a break from work to focus on receiving proper care and treatment. Whether you’re able to continue working will also depend on:
• The severity of your symptoms and level of discomfort
• Whether your discomfort is affected by long periods of sitting or standing
• How much your flexibility and overall ability to move are affected
Attempting to “push through the pain” isn’t advised. If you do this, the affected disc(s) could become increasingly damaged and result in new or worsening symptoms.
For some people, degenerative disc disease has very little impact on their mental capabilities or functions. But if discomfort is severe or chronic in nature, you may be affected mentally. For instance, not being able to fully carry out work-related duties or go about normal routines at home sometimes leads to depression. Disc-related problems could also affect you mentally due to:
• Side effects associated with medications commonly prescribed for disc-related pain
• Sleep disruptions caused by lingering pain or pain spikes
• Uncertainty about how you’ll respond to treatment, especially if you’re not having much success with initial efforts
Not being fully mentally alert could affect your ability to make decisions at work or handle normal work-related sources of stress. You may also be unable to fully focus on the tasks you need to complete at work.
You’ll be more likely to be able to return to work at some point if you’re fully invested in your treatment plan. If you do this and you’re still unable to return to work for a year or more, you may want to begin the process of applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).
The good news is it’s entirely possible to live a normal life with degenerative disc disease and even recover enough to get back to work. For some people, the recovery process involves physical therapy and lifestyle adjustments. Other people with disc pain respond better to appropriate surgical procedures, such as artificial disc replacement surgery. Santa Monica patients who are applying for Social Security Disability (SSD) should talk to their doctors to get sufficient documentation of their disc-related issues and responses to various treatments and/or procedures.
It’s important to get an accurate diagnosis from your doctor or a Santa Monica spine surgeon so the true source of your pain can be treated. If you’re experiencing severe or persistent back pain, make sure to see an experienced back pain specialist for prompt diagnosis and treatment. The industry-leading physicians at The Spine Institute are pioneers in spinal health, employing cutting-edge technology and innovative methods to enable patients to live pain-free, active lives. To schedule a personal consultation with one of our spinal health experts, give us a call today at 310-828-7757.