The Effects of Weight Lifting on Degenerative Disc Disease

Some people begin to suffer from degenerative disc disease, or DDD, as they age. This happens when the discs in between your vertebra begin to wear down and become damaged. If you have back pain that spreads down to your upper thighs and buttocks, you may have DDD. Weightlifting may help improve your DDD symptoms if done properly, but you shouldn't start to lift weights without first discussing it with your doctor or physical therapist.

Stabilization Program

If you suffer from lower back pain due to DDD, your physical therapist may have you undergo a stabilization program, which involves exercises using your body weight that increase the strength of your core muscles. This can help prepare you for safely lifting weights to further strengthen your muscles and limit your back pain. Examples of stabilization exercises include lying on your back and marching your feet, bridges and lying on your stomach and raising opposite arms and legs

Weight Training

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Once your doctor or physical therapist approves weight training, choose exercises that strengthen your back, abdominals, legs and arms so you limit the pressure put on your spine during your daily activities. While lifting weights, pause at the top before lowering the weights, as a study published in 2001 in the "British Journal of Sports Medicine" found that this combination of dynamic and static weight training most effective for strengthening the muscles involved in chronic lower back pain.

Weight Lifting Safety

While weight training, take steps to limit your risk for further injury. Use low weights and higher repetitions rather than using heavy weights, try to use machines instead of free weights and use a spotter when you do use free weights. Ask your doctor whether he recommends you wear a weight belt while lifting to help protect your back.


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If you have degenerative disc disease, speak with your doctor or physical therapist to verify which exercises you should perform and how much weight you should lift. Certain exercises are not recommended for people with back problems, including the dead-lift, snatch, clean-and-jerk and squat, as these are more likely to harm your back.