How to treat degenerative joint disease

Degenerative joint disease (DJD), also called osteoarthritis, involves the breakdown of cartilage covering joint articular surfaces. A smooth cartilage coating helps the articular surfaces of joints to slide smoothly against one another. If cartilage wears away, exposed bone surfaces will rub against one another, resulting in inflammation.

Osteoarthritis can occur within any joint of the body. When this condition affects the joints of the neck and back, called facet joints, symptoms can include pain, tenderness, stiffness, limited range of motion and swelling. Symptoms may be felt in the neck, back, shoulders, hips, buttocks or extremities depending on the location of the affected spinal joints. However, many treatment types are available that can provide relief of DJD symptoms.

Conservative treatments

Most doctors begin treatment for degenerative joint disease with conservative nonsurgical therapies. This may include one or more of the following:

  • Pain medications or anti-inflammatory medications, either over-the-counter or prescription
  • Physical therapy
  • Periods of rest
  • Hot/cold therapy
  • Stretching and low-impact exercise
  • Facet joint injections

Alternative treatments

Some patients may choose to explore alternative therapies, often in conjunction with their doctor-recommended conservative treatment. Acupuncture, chiropractic care, massage therapy, yoga and Pilates have benefited many patients with osteoarthritis, though the effectiveness of these treatments has not been fully accepted by mainstream medicine.

Surgical treatments for degenerative joint disease

If conservative and alternative treatments are ineffective after fully attempting them for weeks or months, a physician or back specialist may recommend neck or back surgery. Performed traditionally, these surgeries involve significant risks, required overnight hospital stays and lengthy recovery periods. With advances in medical technology and surgical technique, minimally invasive procedures, such as those performed at Laser Spine Institute, have become an alternative to traditional open spine surgery. Laser Spine Institute’s board-certified surgeons+ use state-of-the-art technology to perform outpatient procedures that offer many advantages to our patients.

One of the procedures we perform for the treatment of DJD is a facet thermal ablation. Typically performed in conjunction with one of our minimally invasive decompression procedures, a facet thermal ablation uses a laser to deaden painful nerves in the spinal facet joints and provide relief. Contact Laser Spine Institute for more information about our procedures, our caring staff and our beautiful outpatient centers located across the United States.

We’re happy to offer a free MRI review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.