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Degenerative joint disease

What is degenerative joint disease?

Degenerative joint disease is condition in which the cartilage in the joints gradually deteriorates. This can occur in many different joints throughout the body, but when it occurs in the facet joints of the spine, it can also be referred to as facet disease.

Degenerative joint disease diagnosis

Physicians diagnose degenerative joint disease by taking a patient’s medical history, performing a physical examination to evaluate a patient’s range of motion and reviewing the results of one or more imaging scans. Sometimes, a physician will also request a laboratory evaluation of a small fluid sample taken from the patient’s joint.

What causes degenerative joint disease?

In most cases, degenerative joint disease is the result of the natural aging process. The facet joints make it possible for the spine to bend and twist, and every motion causes a small amount of wear and tear on the cartilage. When the cartilage wears away, the bony surfaces can grind against each other.

Although they are not considered causes of degenerative joint disease, obesity, smoking, prolonged repetitive motions and traumatic injuries can all accelerate degeneration in the spine.

Degenerative joint disease symptoms

Pain, stiffness and a reduced range of motion are the most common symptoms of degenerative joint disease. Eventually, bone spurs can form in response to the bone-on-bone friction, and these can pinch the nerve roots or the spinal cord.

Common treatments for degenerative joint disease

The most common treatments for degenerative joint disease are conservative in nature. While it’s not possible to regenerate lost cartilage, it is possible to help alleviate pain and discomfort with medications, exercises, hot/cold compresses and rest.

While joint degeneration cannot be reversed, there are certain lifestyle changes that can help slow the process. For instance, those who use tobacco products can stop, and sedentary individuals can begin exercising regularly to help improve spine health and promote healing.

Can I get surgery?

While many people with degenerative joint disease are able to manage their symptoms without surgery, there are a number of surgical options available for those who do not achieve the desired results with conservative treatment.

At Laser Spine Institute in Cincinnati, we perform minimally invasive outpatient spine surgery for degenerative joint disease using a less than 1-inch incision and muscle-sparing techniques. As a result, our minimally invasive procedures are often the clinically appropriate first choice and provide many advantages versus traditional open back surgery.

To find out if you are a candidate for minimally invasive degenerative joint disease surgery at Laser Spine Institute, contact us today for a no-cost MRI review.*