Degenerative joint disease refers to the gradual deterioration of the cartilage that covers the articular or contacting surfaces within joints, including the facet joints of the spine. This condition, also known as osteoarthritis or spondylosis (spinal arthritis), can affect anyone, especially the elderly. Cartilage deterioration throughout the body is a natural part of aging and occurs when this usually spongy material dehydrates, then frays or cracks.
Besides age, there are several risk factors for the development of degenerative joint disease to be aware of:
- Genetics – Genes may play a role in the occurrence of osteoarthritis. If a family member has degenerative joint disease, the chances are higher that other family members may develop the condition as well.
- Obesity – The spine, along with the knees and hips, bears the body’s weight. In those who are overweight or obese, extra burden is transferred to joints, making them work harder and wear out faster.
- Injuries – Sustaining fractures or other injuries to the joints or surrounding bone increases susceptible to an early onset of osteoarthritis.
- Overuse – Athletes and those with occupations involving repetitive use of the joints (basketball players, warehouse workers lifting heavy items, construction workers, etc.) are more likely to develop degenerative joint disease.
- Gender – Women develop osteoarthritis more rapidly than men.
Although it is impossible to completely prevent degenerative joint disease, there are a few steps which, if taken, may help avoid premature development of osteoarthritis. For instance, maintain a healthy weight and eat a diet full of nutrient-rich foods. Keep activity placing excessive stress joints to a minimum or, at the very least, use the proper precautions and whatever protective equipment when engaging in extreme activities. Exercise to keep muscles and joints strong. Stand and sit with the correct posture. However, always check with a physician before beginning any new diet or exercise plan.
When the pain is too great
Treatments of all types may be divided into two categories: symptomatic treatment and curative treatment. Symptomatic treatment seeks to suppress symptoms, not correct the cause of the symptoms. Curative treatment seeks to eliminate symptoms by removing the cause of the symptom, not the symptom itself. Conservative treatments are usually symptomatic treatments while curative treatments are usually surgical in nature. A regimen of conservative, nonsurgical treatments is usually very effective in managing the symptoms of most spinal conditions. Examples of conservative treatment are physical therapy, hot/cold therapy, pain medication, massage, and a variety of other more exotic choices. These nonsurgical techniques can be great ways to mitigate pain and other symptoms. However, in some cases, patients do not respond to conservative treatment and surgical treatment is prescribed. It is reasonable to determine the least invasive efficacious surgical treatment possible. Please investigate the minimally invasive procedures performed at Laser Spine Institute, offering efficacious procedures with shorter convalescent period and lower risk when compared with traditional open spine surgery of all types. Contact us today for a complimentary review of your MRI or CT scan, and to receive more information.