What causes degenerative joint disease?
Degenerative joint disease, also known as osteoarthritis, can occur anywhere in the body, but can be especially painful and limiting when it occurs in the neck or back. The main cause of arthritis is usually the natural aging process, but lifestyle factors such as posture and carrying extra weight can contribute to its development. Painful symptoms from this condition can make it hard to work, take a walk or even cook dinner. Learning more about the causes of degenerative joint disease can help get you back to a full and active lifestyle.
What are some of the main causes of degenerative joint disease?
Along the rear of the spine, vertebrae are linked with adjacent vertebrae by paired structures known as facet joints. These joints allow the spine to be flexible while still being strong and stable enough to support the torso and head. Over the years, the cartilage that coats the surfaces of the facet joints, preventing the bones from grinding together, wears away. The resulting bone-on-bone contact causes inflammation of these joints and localized pain. This can lead to the formation of bone spurs, which are the body’s attempt to provide stability and reduce friction. Bone spurs can compress nerves located near the facet joint, resulting in painful symptoms locally and throughout the body.
While everyone is subject to wear and tear due to aging, there are indirect factors that can speed up this natural deterioration. Some of these potential degenerative joint disease causes include:
- Traumatic injuries
- Sports-related injuries
- Genetic predisposition
- Activities that involve repetitive motion
Currently, there is no way to cure or reverse degenerative joint disease. However, spinal arthritis symptoms can be relieved through proper treatment. In many cases, physicians first recommend conservative, nonsurgical treatment for individuals experiencing pain from arthritis. Treatments are designed to manage the patient’s pain, and the patient is also encouraged to strengthen muscles surrounding joint structures to help support their bodyweight. Some typical treatments include the use of over-the-counter pain medications, physical therapy, chiropractic adjustments and low-impact exercises to reduce symptoms.
Surgery will sometimes be considered if a full course of conservative treatment does not bring lasting pain relief. If you are considering open back surgery to relieve symptoms of degenerative joint disease but are concerned about some of the risks and difficulties — like long recovery time, scarring and risk of infection — contact Laser Spine Institute. We perform a number of minimally invasive spine surgeries as an alternative to traditional open back surgery, offering shorter recovery periods and fewer risks.^