Anybody with degenerative disk disease?

My 65 year old mom has just been diagnosed with degenerative disk disease in her cervical spine. She’s had problems with her neck since the age of 14, when she was thrown from a horse and landed on her neck – actually she landed on her neck on a chicken, which broke her fall (and killed the chicken). She’s had a couple of other blows to her neck through the years – about 20 years ago, she fell down a flight of stairs while attempting to carry my legless grandmother. Again, she landed on her neck, and Grandma landed on her. Then, about 5 years ago, she was inner-tubing down a snowy hill and ran into a tree head-first. No chickens were injured in those last two incidents. She’s not one to wait around for someone to help her do a job she wants done, so she’s also got years and years of moving things too heavy for her, climbing ladders (and sometimes falling off them) too tall for her, and, tackling solo jobs too big for her. Oh, and she’s a life-long roller-coaster aficionado. So, all in all, she’s lucky to have lasted this long with no major disorders.

Still, “degenerative” is a scary word to see on a diagnosis. She’s a bit freaked out, and so am I , and so is my dad. She’s had an MRI and is scheduled to see a neurologist next week. Anybody else with this diagnosis who can give me some insight on what they’re likely to recommend?

I don’t have it, but my mother and a bunch of acquaintances have something that sounds similar. Since IANAD and I don’t own a bilingual medical dictionary, I can’t be absolutely sure, ok?

Mom’s got this problem where her bones haven’t quite realized she’s stopped growing, so they keep on doing it, only instead of getting taller and taller she gets problems in her joints. She once had to get surgery to have three vertebrae scrapped thinner, because they were pinching two of her spinal disks. This not only got rid of the excruciating pain she’d suffered for the previous nine months, but also of the bouts of sciatica she’d had since age 15. The surgery was…count count count… 20 years ago, and she hasn’t even had sciatica since, she still has backaches and wakes up with a stiff neck but nothing by comparison

Some of her friends with similar conditions have had to get similar surgery at some point, and recovery is good (the specific names are all very long things, one that I remember is “espondiloartrosis anquilopoyetica”, and boy the condition is scary but the name makes it worse). Others have had worse luck and at some point ended up getting these metal plates on their backs which are just ho-rri-ble.

Mom’s pains behave a lot better if she:

  • takes her medication properly, instead of whenever she feels like it
  • makes sure to lift carefully, “as if she were pregnant,” and taking several trips if needed
  • her natural tendence is to do the heavy stuff but then call us for ridiculous things like passing her the remote that’s half an inch too far for her to reach, because she’s already sat down and doesn’t want to have to re-rearrange the cushions. Her back behaves a lot better when she 1) lets us do the heavy stuff and 2) gets off her butt for the light things
  • stretching does wonders