Degenerative Joint Disease — Non-Surgical Treatment Options are Often Sufficient

Degenerative joint disease commonly develops gradually over time as a result of cumulative wear and tear associated with the natural aging process. The spine, which supports the body and bears most of its weight, is composed of an intricate system of vertebrae, joints, intervertebral discs, muscles and ligaments. The cartilage-lined vertebral joints have the important role of stabilizing the spine and allowing for the smooth movement of its components. As the protective cartilage lining of the joints slowly wears away, bone-on-bone contact can occur. This condition, which is sometimes painful, is known as degenerative joint disease, or osteoarthritis.

The majority of people will experience some degree of degenerative back pain at one point or another point during their lives. Additionally, lifestyle factors such as smoking, obesity and repetitive activity have been found to hasten its onset.

Non-Surgical Treatment Options

A patient who has been diagnosed with degenerative joint disease and is experiencing symptoms, such as localized or radiating pain, stiffness, headaches or fatigue, is typically treated initially with non-surgical approaches. Some commonly recommended techniques include:

  • A brief period of rest followed by behavior modification (to avoid activities that exacerbate the symptoms)
  • Pain relievers
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications
  • Physical therapy
  • Low-impact exercise
  • Stretching
  • Deep tissue massage

Some patients also find relief through alternative treatments like yoga and acupuncture. If several weeks or months of conservative treatment do not produce adequate relief, spine surgery might be recommended as a last resort to address osteoarthritis.

Minimally Invasive Surgical Options

If non-surgical treatment options prove insufficient and a physician recommends surgical intervention to treat your degenerative joint disease, you should know that highly invasive open neck or back surgery is not your only choice. The surgeons at Laser Spine Institute have perfected minimally invasive, outpatient procedures that are effective alternatives to traditional open spine surgery. To learn more, please contact us today for a review of your recent MRI or CT scan.