What are the causes and treatment options for spinal degenerative joint disease?

Degenerative joint disease is the gradual deterioration of the cartilage within your joints, which can include the facet joints in the spinal column. Since these joints are involved in the body’s ability to bend and twist, they are subjected to a great deal of stress. With time and aging, constant use of your spine’s facet joints can lead to inflammation — and with it, pain and stiffness — that comes from the cartilage wearing away, leaving the facets to grind against each other without any protection.

These symptoms can have a debilitating effect on your life, taking you away from your favorite people and activities. Educating yourself about degenerative joint disease causes and treatments can be a crucial first step in getting back to the quality of life you deserve.

Causes of degenerative joint disease

Degenerative joint disease of the spine is mainly caused by the natural aging process and the normal wearing down we experience as we get older. Over time, the protective cartilage that allows for smooth joint movement becomes dry and brittle. This breakdown of cartilage exposes the joints to increased friction and leads to the inflammation associated with degenerative joint disease.

Additionally, this condition can be accelerated by lifestyle factors such as smoking, obesity, genetics, previous illnesses and rigorous physical activity. Most people older than 50 probably have some form of spinal joint degeneration that goes unnoticed. Symptoms usually arise when the inflammation becomes severe and the degenerative joint disease causes symptoms such as throbbing or aching pain, tingling or numbness, joint stiffness and reduced range of motion.

Treatment options for spinal degenerative joint disease

Fortunately, there are many conservative treatment options that doctors recommend for this disease, including:

  • Medication. Over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen may help manage pain and inflammation.
  • Physical therapy. Prescribed physical exercises may help extend your range of movement and strengthen supporting muscles.
  • Lifestyle changes. Limiting activities such as playing high-impact sports or heavy lifting may help ease symptoms.
  • Selective nerve block injections. An injection of a numbing agent combined with corticosteroid is commonly administered to help ease pain and inflammation around the injection site.

If your symptoms from spinal degenerative joint disease aren’t solved by conservative treatment alone, it may be time to consider a surgical option. Laser Spine Institute and our team of board-certified surgeons+ offers minimally invasive outpatient spine surgery that has helped more than 75,000 patients since 2005.

To learn more and to receive a no-cost MRI review to find out if you’re a potential candidate for one of our procedures, reach out to our dedicated team today.