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 pain, stiffness and other uncomfortable symptoms.

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 physicians begin treatment for degenerative joint disease with conservative, non-invasive therapies. This may include one or more of the following:

  • Pain medications or anti-inflammatory medications (either over-the-counter or prescription)
  • Physical therapy
  • Intermittent rest
  • Hot/cold therapy
  • Stretching and low impact exercise
  • And others

Alternative treatments

Some patients may choose to explore alternative therapies, either in conjunction with their physician-prescribed conservative treatments or in lieu of them. Acupuncture, chiropractics, massage therapy, yoga and Pilates have benefited many patients with osteoarthritis, though the efficacy of these treatments remains unproven by scientific investigation.

Surgical treatments

If conservative and alternative treatments are ineffective, a physician or back specialist may recommend neck or back surgery. Traditionally, these surgeries involved significant risks and required lengthy hospital stays and recovery periods. With advances in medical technology, minimally invasive procedures, such as those performed at Laser Spine Institute, have become an attractive alternative to traditional open spine surgery. Laser Spine Institute surgeons use state-of-the-art technology to perform their surgeries, which allows for smaller incisions and less disruption of healthy tissue than was possible in the past. Laser Spine Institute’s minimally invasive procedures, which are performed on an outpatient basis, are an effective alternative to traditional open back surgery. Contact Laser Spine Institute for more information and for your MRI or CT scan review.