Treating severe degenerative joint disease

Severe degenerative joint disease, or osteoarthritis, in the spine usually comes with age and can lead to chronic, debilitating symptoms that can take you away from your job, family and favorite activities.

The spine is especially vulnerable to the effects of the aging process because it bears so much weight while still needing to be flexible enough for movement. The joints in the spine, known as facet joints, are covered in cartilage that allows for smooth movement.

Severe degenerative joint disease occurs when years of wear and tear, combined with age-related dehydration, causes the joint linings to wear down and create potentially painful bone-on-bone contact. This can cause joint swelling and bone spurs that can narrow the spinal canal and potentially create painful local and radiating symptoms.

Treatment options for severe degenerative joint disease

While there is no cure for spinal arthritis, there are many effective conservative treatment options that can help relieve the symptoms of this condition. Conservative therapy for arthritis is usually aimed at managing pain and improving joint movement.

Some of the most common treatments your doctor may recommend to treat the symptoms of severe degenerative joint disease include:

• Rest
• A healthy diet
• Over-the-counter or prescription pain medication
• Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
• Lifestyle changes, like quitting smoking or losing weight
• Low-impact exercises to strengthen the muscles surrounding the joint
• Physical therapy to improve joint mobility
Epidural steroid injections

Minimally invasive alternatives

Surgery usually becomes an option when weeks or months of conservative treatment do not bring the level of desired pain relief and a return to normal activity.

Traditional open back surgery typically involves a large incision that cuts and tears the supporting muscles, leading to a long and painful recovery period. Other difficulties include overnight hospitalization that can increase the risk of infection, excessive blood loss and surgical scarring.

Laser Spine Institute is the leader in minimally invasive spine surgery, which provides patients with an alternative to traditional open back procedures. Our surgeons are able to use a smaller incision to access the spine, leading to shorter recovery periods^ and fewer risks than traditional open spine surgery.

Contact us today for your no-cost MRI review* to see if you are a candidate for one of our outpatient procedures.