Also known as osteoarthritis, degenerative joint disease and its symptoms can occur in any joint in the body, but are frequently exhibited in the vertebral joints in the spine. Over the years, the articular cartilage of vertebral facet joints that stabilize the spine become worn and arthritic. This may cause major neck or back pain in an otherwise healthy individual. Although its underlying cause cannot be reversed or cured, the symptoms of degenerative joint disease can usually be managed with a series of conservative, non-surgical treatments.
The role of the facet joints
In a healthy spine, the individual vertebrae are cushioned anteriorly (on the front abdomen side) by soft, pliable discs and are connected posteriorly (on the back side) by paired facet joints, located above and below each vertebrae. These joints stabilize the spine and allow it to remain flexible. Over the years, the cartilage that stops the bones from grinding together gradually wears away. This causes the osteoarthritic pain usually experienced in the cervical spine (neck) and lumbar spine (lower back).
- A feeling of stiffness or soreness
- Localized pain at the site of the arthritic joint
- Pain that radiates along a nerve
Initial treatment of degenerative joint disease symptoms is attempted conservatively, with a variety of non-surgical techniques designed to ease pain and improve joint mobility. Treatments such as the use of pain medications or anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, massage and diet are all helpful strategies.
In the event that your pain persists after several weeks of conservative treatment, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about our minimally invasive techniques for treating degenerative joint disease and its various symptoms.