Degenerative joint disease and aging

Degenerative joint disease, also known as osteoarthritis, is the most commonly diagnosed form of arthritis. This condition, which is mainly caused by aging, involves the breakdown of cartilage between the joints, which includes the facet joints that connect the vertebrae in the spine, allowing for upper body movement.

Degenerative joint disease and aging are so closely linked because as we age, important parts of our body dry out. The spine is particularly vulnerable to this effect of aging because it receives less circulation than other parts of the body, meaning that water and nutrients are scarce.

In these conditions, the dehydrated cartilage of the facet joints can wear down, allowing adjacent vertebrae to rub together. This leads to joint stiffness, inflammation and possible nerve compression from arthritic bone spurs. Nerve compression can produce localized pain and radiating symptoms of pain, tingling, weakness and numbness in the extremities.

Can I prevent degenerative joint disease?

There is no way to completely prevent the onset of osteoarthritis. Degenerative joint disease affects up to 80 percent of the elderly population and can be debilitating. There are many people, however, who show signs of degeneration but never experience symptoms.

Living a healthy lifestyle may help slow down degeneration and reduce your risk of developing symptoms. Here are some specific lifestyle changes that can potentially be effective:

  • Exercise regularly, both strength training and aerobic exercise can be beneficial
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Eat a nutrient-rich diet that includes fruits, vegetables and omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties
  • Limit intake of alcohol and avoid smoking cigarettes — the toxins released when smoking have been shown to speed up the breakdown of cartilage

What if I’m still in pain?

Is degenerative joint disease causing you pain? Have you tried conservative treatments, such as physical therapy, massage, chiropractic adjustments and medication with no relief from your pain?

If you’ve been diagnosed with degenerative joint disease and have exhausted the conservative treatments recommended by your doctor, you may be considering surgical options. Before you elect to undergo a traditional open back surgery and the long recovery time and risks that can come with it, see if you’re a candidate for minimally invasive spine surgery at Laser Spine Institute.

We have already helped more than 60,000 patients find relief from neck or back pain in our outpatient centers located across the United States. Our surgeons use smaller incisions that avoid cutting or tearing muscles, leading to shorter recovery times and less scarring compared to traditional open spine surgery. Contact us today for your no-cost MRI review* to find out if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive procedures.