Four types of exercise may help you avoid the need for degenerative joint disease surgery

Degenerative joint disease surgery may ultimately become necessary to address pain and other symptoms caused by a breakdown of the spinal facet joints. This condition, which is also known as spinal osteoarthritis, often occurs naturally over time due to age-related degenerative changes in the spine.

Spinal osteoarthritis can cause the protective cartilage that lines the facet joints to slowly wear away, leading to painful bone-on-bone contact. In response, the body may produce bony deposits (osteophytes) to help build up and protect the weakened bones. Because osteophytes take up valuable space within the spinal canal, the resulting overcrowded conditions can create pressure on the spinal cord or a spinal nerve root.

Can age-related neck and back pain be prevented?

Of course, aging is unavoidable, but many experts agree that positive lifestyle habits can slow the progression — and reduce the impact — of degenerative joint disease. For instance, one common approach is a physician-approved exercise program. Essential for both the maintenance of a healthy spine and the body’s natural healing process, regular exercise is a key component of long-term health management for everyone.

For many people, a customized program that includes the following four types of exercise can provide numerous health-related benefits and, in some cases, even delay or avoid the need for degenerative joint disease surgery:

  1. Stability. Exercises designed to improve balance and agility, such as tai chi and heel-to-toe walking, can help keep the body limber, increase range of motion (which is often limited by spinal osteoarthritis) and strengthen the core muscles that support the spine.
  2. Anaerobic. In contrast to aerobic activities, exercises that involve fewer and more intense muscle contractions, such as weightlifting, sprinting and plyometrics, can provide optimal muscle strength gains, which in turn can help compensate for the reduced function of degenerated facet joints.
  3. Flexibility. Certain stretches and yoga poses can increase spinal range of motion by stretching muscles that have become shortened over time due to injury, poor posture or inactivity. When performed after anaerobic exercises, flexibility exercises can be particularly beneficial for promoting the circulation of blood and healing nutrients to the muscles surrounding the spine.
  4. Aerobic. Endurance exercises involve the continual movement of large muscle groups, such as those in the legs, for at least 20 minutes at a time. Some examples include jogging, cycling, swimming and rowing. Often the main component of an overall fitness program, aerobic exercise can provide numerous wellness-related benefits, including enhanced cardiovascular and respiratory health.

Surgery for chronic pain

If your pain persists despite conservative degenerative joint disease treatment, surgery may become an option for relief. The surgeons at Laser Spine Institute perform minimally invasive procedures that are safer and effective alternatives to traditional open spine surgery.^ Contact us to learn more and find out if you are a candidate.