Degenerative joint disease risk factors

Degenerative joint disease is the gradual wearing away of the cartilage that covers the surfaces of the joints in the spine. This condition, also known as osteoarthritis, can affect anyone, but becomes more likely to occur with age.

The facet joints that connect the vertebrae in the spine are vulnerable to wear and tear and are common locations for degenerative joint disease to occur. While this condition does not always cause symptoms, if any displaced tissue — such as a bone spur or swollen ligament — presses on a spinal nerve, painful symptoms can result.

While aging is unavoidable, knowing about other degenerative joint disease risk factors can potentially lower your risk of developing symptoms, or slow down their development if you have already been diagnosed. This can help you make lifestyle and treatment decisions with the best chance of giving you a full and active life.

Specific degenerative joint disease risk factors

Beside age, there are several risk factors for the development of degenerative joint disease to be aware of, such as:

  • Genetics – Genes may play a role in the occurrence of osteoarthritis. If a family member has degenerative joint disease, the chances are higher that other family members may develop the condition as well.
  • Obesity – The spine supports the weight of the upper body. Carrying extra weight stresses the joints, making them work harder and wear out faster.
  • Injuries – Sustaining fractures or other injuries to the joints or surrounding bone increases the chance of early-onset osteoarthritis.
  • Overuse – Jobs and sports that involve repetitive bending and lifting — construction, factory work, golf — place increased strain on joints.
  • Gender – Women develop osteoarthritis more frequently than men.

Preventative measures and treatment options

Although it is impossible to completely prevent degenerative joint disease, there are some lifestyle changes that can possibly slow the development of symptoms. For instance, healthy diet and exercise can contribute to weight loss; while practicing good posture and proper lifting technique can reduce the negative impact from sports and activities that place wear on spinal joints.

If you have been dealing with chronic pain related to degenerative joint disease, the good news is that effective treatments are available for your symptoms. Most physicians will initially recommend a course of conservative, nonsurgical treatments, which include physical therapy, hot/cold therapy, pain medication and/or massage, as well as other options.

Surgery to treat the symptoms of spinal arthritis has traditionally required a full open back procedure in order for the surgeon to access the spine and decompress the nerves. Because there are risks and difficulties involved with surgery of this type, it is usually only considered when conservative options have been exhausted.

The minimally invasive spine surgery performed by the skilled surgeons at Laser Spine Institute offers patients an alternative to traditional procedures. Our procedures use smaller, muscle-sparing incisions that can dramatically shorten the recovery time and lower many risks compared to open spine surgery. Contact us today for your no-cost MRI review* to see if we can help you get your life back from neck or back pain.