Degenerative joint disease of the neck

Degenerative joint disease (DJD) of the neck is a fairly common condition that occurs with the natural degeneration and aging of the spine.

The disease is present when the articular cartilage within the facet joints (the joints between the vertebrae) has deteriorated, both due to age-related water loss and the breakdown of protein fibers. As cartilage wears away and raw bone rubs against bone, painful inflammation develops, causing osteophytes or bone spurs to form.

Bone spurs may compress surrounding cervical spinal nerves, resulting in pain and other symptoms. Symptoms of weakness, throbbing and tingling can spread through the shoulders, arms and hands. In some cases, inflammation of the synovial capsule, which produces the lubricating agent of the spinal joints, can cause additional inflammation and/or joint deformity.

Surgery for degenerative joint disease

Cervical degenerative joint disease can be addressed nonsurgically or surgically. Surgical options include:

  • Spinal fusion — This surgery involves the removal of a disc and uses a bone graft and stabilizing implants to fuse the two vertebrae surrounding the disc into one segment of solid bone. Ideally, the fused section re-establishes proper positioning of the vertebrae and takes pressure off pinched nerves.
  • Laminectomy — This surgery is aimed at removing vertebral bone to make space for or remove bone spurs that may have developed in the joint space. Osteophytes are produced by the body in a reaction to inflammation in degenerative joints. Spurs can cause nerve compression.

Is surgery my only treatment option?

Before considering elective surgery, conservative treatment of symptoms should be attempted. Different treatment combinations are effective in different individuals. Pain medication, hot/cold compresses, behavior modification and gentle stretching are all viable options your physician may recommend.

When conservative, noninvasive treatment has failed, surgical treatment is often required. At Laser Spine Institute, we offer minimally invasive decompression surgery to remove the portion of the spine that is pinching the nerve root and causing the pain, and minimally invasive stabilization surgery to stabilize the spine with artificial discs or bone grafts if a large portion of the disc or vertebrae is removed.

Laser Spine Institute offers a full range of minimally invasive procedures that are performed on an outpatient basis. Which Laser Spine Institute procedure is best for any given individual must be determined at a personal consultation. Contact Laser Spine Institute today for more information, or for your MRI or CT scan review.