Degenerative Joint Disease Treatment

Spinal degenerative joint disease treatment — various treatment options for osteoarthritis of the spine

Degenerative joint disease treatment is generally intended to alleviate the patient’s symptoms and increase the patient’s mobility as much as possible. In some cases, the condition may be surgically treated. However, no treatment to cure degenerative joint disease itself exists. Instead, when a patient is diagnosed with degenerative joint disease, the goal of treatment is to non-surgically curb the patient’s symptoms. Spinal surgery should only be considered as a last resort after all other conservative options have proven unsuccessful.

Causes

Degenerative joint disease in the spine is most often caused by nothing more than the normal aging process, although factors like injury, obesity, years of smoking and prolonged repetitive motions can all exacerbate 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 grating 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.

Treatments

The effects of degenerative joint disease are permanent. When cartilage is lost, it cannot be recreated or re-grown. 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 techniques. Rather than attempting to cure the condition, a conservative course of degenerative joint disease treatment focuses on the patient’s well-being and is designed to alleviate 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 a number of factors can impact a patient’s treatment plan, including the extent for 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 physician, a treatment plan will be developed and it is up to the patient to inform the spine specialist 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 for patients with the condition:

  • Over-the-counter or prescription medication – There are several different types of medication that may be recommended to patients who experience pain-related symptoms as a result of osteoarthritis. Most commonly, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are recommended to help alleviate inflammation and make daily activity easier. In some cases, stronger prescription medication may be recommended. Pain killers, anti-depressants and muscle relaxers are also potential options
  • Low-impact exercise 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 other 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/cold compresses – Most people are familiar with heating pads and ice packs. With regard to the spine, heating elements can improve circulation and help promote healing while ice works well for reducing inflammation and numbing discomfort.
  • Healthy dieting – 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 physician as part of an overall treatment plan.
    Furthermore, many individuals turn to complementary and alternative medicine 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 physician 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.

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, 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 a number of 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 techniques are performed on an outpatient basis. Our surgeries also use innovative tools that push aside muscle tissue, rather than cutting it, which limits collateral damage to the area surrounding the spinal column. This lessens the chances for postsurgical complications and minimizes the rehabilitation process. To determine if you might be a candidate for one of our state-of-the-art procedures and to learn more about your degenerative joint disease treatment options, contact us today and we will review your MRI.

Browse Related Resources