Treatment options for degenerative joint disease in the spine

Treatment for degenerative joint disease of the spine does not necessarily involve surgery. In fact, many people find that conservative therapies are very effective for reducing their discomfort and enhancing their quality of life. For this reason, many physicians advise their patients to begin with a nonsurgical approach to treatment.

Nonsurgical degenerative joint disease treatment options

If you were recently diagnosed with degenerative joint disease, your physician can recommend a specific treatment plan for you based on a careful evaluation of your medical history, symptoms and lifestyle. Before discussing surgery, however, your physician will likely encourage you to try nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which are readily available over the counter and can be very effective for reducing painful inflammation in the spinal facet joints. In addition to NSAIDs, some other options that your physician may recommend include:

  • Stretches
  • Low-impact exercises
  • Physical therapy
  • Hot and cold compresses
  • Therapeutic massage
  • Lifestyle changes, such as smoking cessation, weight loss and dietary improvement, if necessary
  • Pain-relieving medications

While nonsurgical therapies like these can be very effective for relieving discomfort, it’s important to understand that conservative degenerative joint disease treatment will have no effect on the underlying cause of your discomfort. This means that even though you may feel much better in the short term, the degeneration of your spinal facet joints may continue to progress. As a result, a treatment approach that initially works well for you may lose its effectiveness over time.

For instance, as the protective cartilage that lines your spinal facet joints continues to break down and wear away, painful bone-on-bone contact can occur. To help protect and fortify the weakened bones, your body may produce bony deposits (osteophytes) on your spine. Because the space within your spinal canal is limited, osteophytes can potentially compress sensitive nerve tissue, leading to further discomfort.

Degenerative joint disease surgery

Your physician may recommend surgery if the conservative approaches you try are initially ineffective or lose their effectiveness over time. Depending on your specific needs, you may have more than one option for surgical degenerative joint disease treatment, including traditional open spine surgery and minimally invasive outpatient surgery.

Laser Spine Institute offers safer and effective alternatives to traditional open neck and back procedures, and our patients are typically up and walking within a few hours of surgery.^ If you’d like to find out if you’re a candidate for a minimally invasive degenerative joint disease procedure at Laser Spine Institute, contact us today.