There are many types of degenerative joint disease. Adult onset rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis are the most common types. Any joint of the body may be affected, though the weight-bearing joints of the body, like the knees, hips and spine, are especially susceptible. When osteoarthritis affects the neck and back, the condition is referred to as facet disease or arthritis of the spine. In this case, the articular cartilage within facet joints deteriorates. Although primarily caused by the natural aging process, the condition can be exacerbated by factors like genetics, gender, obesity, illness or infection.
How does joint disease affect the different levels of the spine?
Mild degenerative joint disease may remain completely asymptomatic or produce only short periods of discomfort or joint stiffness. Severe degenerative joint disease, or facet disease, may cause joint enlargement, or hypertrophy. Additionally, bone spurs, also called osteophytes, may develop. Both facet joint hypertrophy and bone spurs can cause neural compression and produce radiating symptoms. Osteophyte development may cause painful joint lockage, joint deformity and reduced range of motion. The condition will affect each level of the spine somewhat differently:
- Cervical region – Can cause pain, tingling or joint stiffness in the neck; symptoms may radiate through the shoulders, arms, hands, and fingers.
- Thoracic region – Sharp pain or throbbing may develop in the middle back, around the rib cage, kidneys and chest.
- Lumbar region – Pain, weakness, or numbness may travel from the lower back and down through the hips, buttocks, legs, and feet. Joint instability may also occur.
Minimally invasive treatment options
Once your physician confirms a diagnosis of spinal degenerative joint disease, he or she may prescribe a regimen of conservative treatments such as pain medication, physical therapy, gentle stretching, hot-cold compresses and intermittent rest. If weeks or months of these methods do not mitigate your pain, your physician may recommend spine surgery. In this case, contact Laser Spine Institute. Our minimally invasive procedures are a more effective alternative to traditional open back surgery. Laser Spine Institute has helped tens of thousands of people find relief from neck and back pain. Request a complimentary review of your MRI or CT scan today.