What are the symptoms of degenerative joint disease?

Degenerative joint disease (DJD), also called osteoarthritis, is a condition that can affect almost any joint in the body, including the facet joints in the neck and back. This article explores the symptoms, preventive measures and treatments of this condition as it relates to the neck and back.


The symptoms of degenerative joint disease are caused by the gradual deterioration of articular cartilage on joint surfaces. Cartilage protects our joints and allows them to move smoothly. Without articular cartilage, raw joint surfaces abrade one another and rapidly erode away. Though symptoms may vary, many patients with osteoarthritis experience the following:

  • Pain
  • Tenderness
  • Swelling
  • Stiffness
  • Limited range of motion
  • The feeling of bone rubbing against bone
  • The formation of bone spurs, or osteophytes, on the joint margins. These boney enlargements may press against nerves, causing pain, numbness, weakness, and other symptoms

The location of these symptoms can differ depending on the position of the affected spinal joints. Patients may experience discomfort in the neck, back, hips, shoulders, buttocks and extremities.

Preventative measures

DJD is a result of the aging process and is unavoidable. There are, however, a number of precautions an individual can take to slow the development of osteoarthritis. Maintaining a healthy bodyweight, eating a well-balanced diet, participating in moderate exercise, not smoking and avoiding excessive alcohol consumption can all help to keep the spine healthy. Reducing the amount of wear and tear placed on the neck and back by avoiding strenuous occupations and high-impact sports can also help maintain spinal joint health.


Several treatment options are available for degenerative joint disease. Conservative and/or alternative medicine treatments, such as pain medication, physical therapy, acupuncture and yoga, may help many patients find symptomatic relief. Others may opt for surgery to treat the cause of symptoms. There are currently no treatments that restore lost articular cartilage. If you are considering neck or back surgery, consult us at Laser Spine Institute. Our minimally invasive procedures are effective alternatives to traditional open back surgery and have helped tens of thousands of patients find relief from neck and back pain. Contact us to learn more and for your MRI or CT scan review.