Degenerative joint disease: overview of types.

There are many types of degenerative joint disease, but adult onset rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis are two of the most common types. Any joint of the body may be affected, although the weight-bearing joints of the body, like the knees, hips and spine, are especially susceptible.

When degenerative joint disease affects the neck and back, the condition is called facet disease or spinal osteoarthritis. The facet joints connect the vertebrae in the spine — allowing it to bend and flex — but as they dry out with age, the cartilage lining becomes brittle and can wear away. Without a protective lining, bone rubs against bone; causing inflammation and bone spurs that can potentially compress nerves.

Degenerative joint disease is usually caused by the natural aging process, but other factors like genetics, gender, obesity, illness or infection can also be heavily involved.

How does joint disease affect the different levels of the spine?

Spinal osteoarthritis doesn’t always cause symptoms and in many cases, when symptoms do develop, they are mild and manageable. More severe types of degenerative joint disease can cause joint inflammation and bone spurs, which can be both chronic and debilitating. Bone spurs are the body’s natural attempt to stabilize the arthritic joints that are undergoing friction.

Both facet joint inflammation and bone spurs can cause nerve compression, resulting in local and radiating symptoms. Bone spur development may also cause painful joint lockage, joint deformity and a reduced range of motion.

The spine is divided into three regions, and degenerative joint disease can affect each level of the spine somewhat differently:

Cervical region — In this region, it can cause pain, tingling or joint stiffness in the neck symptoms may radiate through the shoulders, arms, hands and fingers.
Thoracic region — In this region, sharp pain or throbbing may develop in the middle back, around the rib cage, kidneys and chest.
Lumbar region — In this region, pain, weakness or numbness may travel from the lower back and down through the hips, buttocks, legs and feet. Joint instability may also occur.

Minimally invasive treatment options

Once your physician diagnoses spinal degenerative joint disease, he or she will usually prescribe a course of conservative treatments like pain medication, physical therapy, gentle stretching, hot/cold compresses and rest. If weeks or months of these methods do not relieve your pain, your physician may recommend spine surgery.

If you are a candidate for traditional open spine surgery but are concerned about the increased risks and difficulties involved, contact Laser Spine Institute. Our minimally invasive spine surgery provides patients with an alternative to traditional procedures, offering less scarring and a shorter recovery time§. Laser Spine Institute has helped more 60,000 people find relief from neck and back pain.

To learn more about becoming a candidate, reach out to our Care Team today for a no-cost review of your MRI report.*