Choosing the right degenerative joint disease treatment for you

Degenerative joint disease treatment is generally intended to alleviate your symptoms and increase your mobility as much as possible. In some cases, if conservative treatment doesn’t work to relieve your pain, you may be recommended for spine surgery.

As you begin to research the spinal degenerative joint disease treatments available to you, you will find that no treatment exists to cure degenerative joint disease itself. Instead, the goal of treatment is to nonsurgically curb the symptoms of this condition. Spinal surgery should only be considered as a last resort after all other conservative options described below have proven unsuccessful.

Degenerative joint disease causes

Degenerative joint disease in the spine is most often caused by nothing more than the normal aging process, although factors like traumatic injury, excess weight gain, smoking cigarettes and prolonged repetitive motions can all worsen the onset of the condition.

The vertebral joints in the spine are cartilage-lined structures that stabilize the spine and allow the vertebrae to smoothly articulate without grinding against one another. Degenerative joint disease, also known as osteoarthritis, occurs as the cartilage begins to wear away and bone-on-bone contact is the result.

Degenerative joint disease treatments

The effects of degenerative joint disease are permanent. When cartilage is lost, it cannot be recreated or regrown. However, this isn’t to say that patients diagnosed with the condition are resigned to a life of discomfort. In fact, osteoarthritis in the spine and other areas of the body is highly treatable and often responds well to a regimen of conservative methods.

Rather than attempting to cure the condition, conservative degenerative joint disease treatment focuses on the patient’s well-being and is designed to ease chronic pain, improve spinal flexibility and strengthen the neck or back. Conservative degenerative joint disease treatment can be highly effective but requires the right expectations from the patient and willingness for a period of trial and error.

While there are many compelling treatments available, what works for one individual will not necessarily work for everyone. That’s because many factors can impact a patient’s treatment plan, including the extent of his or her joint disease, the patient’s age and health, the location of the problem and other similar variables.

When the condition is diagnosed by a doctor, a treatment plan will be developed and it is up to the patient to inform the doctor of what seems to work and what doesn’t. Over time, the right combination of treatments can usually be uncovered with great success. Here are some examples of the most popular degenerative joint disease treatment options:

  • Over-the-counter or prescription medication. There are several different types of medication that may be recommended for patients who experience pain-related symptoms as a result of osteoarthritis. Most commonly, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are recommended to help alleviate inflammation and make daily activity easier. In some cases, stronger prescription medication may be recommended. Pain medications, anti-depressants and muscle relaxers are also potential options.
  • Low-impact and stretching exercises. Targeted exercises and certain stretching programs can be highly effective toward increasing spinal flexibly, improving muscle mass and shedding excess body fat. However, it is extremely important for the patient to work closely with a spine specialist, physical therapist or another expert before beginning any new training regimen, as the wrong exercises may make matters worse or at the very least prove ineffective.
  • Rest. While long-term resting isn’t an option because prolonged inactivity can make neck and back pain worse, limited resting can help the body heal and remove strain from the spine.
  • Hot and cold compresses. Most people are familiar with heating pads and ice packs. With regard to the spine, heating elements can improve circulation and relax muscles while ice works well for reducing inflammation and numbing discomfort.
  • A nutritious diet. Following a healthy diet and shedding excess body fat can be a highly effective treatment option because extra body weight increases the burden placed on the spine. By slimming down, this weight burden is reduced and the vertebral joints aren’t as strained.
  • Other lifestyle adjustments. Quitting smoking, limiting alcohol consumption, avoiding activities that strain the spine and other lifestyle adjustments may be recommended by a doctor as part of an overall treatment plan.

Furthermore, many individuals turn to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) to treat their joint pain. The use of chiropractic therapy, deep tissue massage, aromatherapy and acupuncture are all particularly popular options.

As with any degenerative joint disease treatment approach, it is always advisable that the patient seeks the advice of their doctor before turning to alternative medicine. Many people swear by complementary and alternative medicine, but the overall efficacy of this approach remains the source of disagreement within the mainstream medical community.

Degenerative joint disease surgery

While conservative treatment is usually effective at managing discomfort stemming from degenerative joint disease, surgery is sometimes recommended when no other treatment delivers lasting and sufficient results. However, even in this instance, it is important to understand that there are many different types of surgery available depending on the patient’s prognosis.

Where open spine surgery in a traditional hospital setting used to be the only option available, today spine surgery can be minimally invasive in nature. At Laser Spine Institute, for example, we specialize in many minimally invasive spine procedures that are designed to address common degenerative spine conditions, including those that affect the vertebral joints.

Unlike traditional open spine surgery, our minimally invasive spine surgery is performed on an outpatient basis. Our techniques limit the cutting of muscle tissue, which reduces damage to the area surrounding the spinal column compared to open spine surgery. This lessens the chances for postsurgical complications and results in a shorter recovery period.^ To learn more about the advantages of our procedures, contact us today.

As the leader in minimally invasive spine surgery, Laser Spine Institute has performed more than 100,000 patient procedures since 2005. To determine if you are a potential candidate for one of the procedures performed at our state-of-the-art surgery centers and to learn more about your degenerative joint disease treatment options, reach out to our dedicated team today for a free MRI review.* We can help guide you on your road to recovery.