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Degenerative joint disease

Degenerative joint disease, also known as osteoarthritis, is a very common condition that is characterized by the gradual degeneration of cartilage that cushions and promotes flexibility in the joints. It can occur in several joints throughout the body, including the facet joints of the spine. This deterioration of cartilage can potentially lead to painful bone-on-bone contact within the affected joints.

Causes of degenerative joint disease

The body’s natural aging process is most often to blame for the onset of degenerative joint disease. Years of wear and tear eventually take their toll on the spine, which becomes increasingly brittle with age. While no one can avoid growing older, certain steps can be taken to help maintain a healthy spine. These steps include:

  • Participating in frequent gentle exercise
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Practicing good posture
  • Avoiding strenuous motions and exercises
  • Abstaining from tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption
  • Eating a nutrient-rich, balanced diet

Degenerative joint disease symptoms

As degenerative joint disease progresses, bone spurs (small calcium deposits) can form on the facet joints. Bone spurs may pinch surrounding spinal nerves, triggering uncomfortable nerve compression symptoms like shooting pain, tingling sensations and numbness. Many people with degenerative joint disease also experience:

  • Decreased range of motion
  • The sensation of bone running against bone (crepitus)
  • Joint stiffness and unexpected joint lockage
  • Localized aching and throbbing

Degenerative joint disease diagnosis and treatment options

Degenerative joint disease is typically diagnosed by a primary care physician, who may refer the patient to a specialist or suggest one or more conservative treatments (such as physical therapy, pain medication, stretching exercises and hot/cold compresses) to help reduce pain and increase mobility. Supplementary therapies such as acupuncture, yoga and massage therapy may also prove effective for some patients.

Surgery for degenerative joint disease

The majority of people with degenerative joint disease don’t require surgery to manage their symptoms. However, surgical intervention to decompress nerves or stabilize the spine may be recommended for patients whose severe pain and dysfunction do not improve despite rounds of conservative treatment.

Laser Spine Institute in Philadelphia offers minimally invasive procedures to patients with degenerative joint disease who don’t want to contend with the lengthy recovery periods typical of traditional open spine surgeries. Our advanced procedures are performed on an outpatient basis, only require a less than 1-inch incision and have considerably shorter recovery times^ compared to traditional open spine surgery.

Contact Laser Spine Institute today to receive a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our minimally invasive procedures.