What is a degenerative bone disease?

In the most general terms, degenerative bone diseases are conditions that cause the deterioration of bones. When referring to the gradual reduction of bone mass, which makes the bones more brittle, “degenerative bone disease” means osteoporosis. However, when discussing the breakdown of spinal components, including discs and bones, “degenerative bone disease” could be mistakenly used to refer to degenerative disc disease or degenerative joint disease. All of these conditions can lead to notable complications, but for the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on degenerative joint disease.

What is degenerative joint disease?

Most people have probably heard of degenerative joint disease by its other name – osteoarthritis. This condition consists of the breakdown of the cartilage that lines the joints. Cartilage helps bones within a joint glide against one another, and when it is worn away, the bones can begin to grind instead. Without adequate cartilage, the joint may feel uncomfortable or painful to move. The body may compensate for the loss of cartilage with the growth of bony bumps, called bone spurs, which can further restrict movement of a given joint.

Degenerative joint disease can occur within nearly any joint of the body, including the joints of the spine. When these joints lose their cartilage, not only can the affected person experience localized pain and the reduced mobility of the spine, but he or she can also experience symptoms of a pinched spinal nerve. This is because resulting bone spurs can jut into the spinal canal and put pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots.

How is spinal degenerative joint disease treated?

Although degenerative joint disease cannot be cured, it can be effectively managed through nonsurgical methods in many cases. Some of the more commonly used approaches include:

  • Behavior modification, such as adjusting posture or getting more low-impact exercise to increase spinal strength and flexibility
  • Physical therapy and targeted stretching
  • Pain and/or anti-inflammatory medications

In certain cases, weeks or months of trial and error with different nonsurgical approaches might not provide the patient with significant relief from symptoms. That is when surgery may become an option.

Laser Spine Institute offers a minimally invasive alternative to open spine neck and back procedures. If you have degenerative joint disease of the spine and you’d like to learn if you’re a candidate for our outpatient spine surgery, contact us today.