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Can you reverse degenerative joint disease?

The onset of degenerative joint disease in the spine is usually marked by vague neck or back pain and stiffness. Often, the discomfort is worse in the morning and improves with movement as the day goes on. While this age-related condition cannot be prevented or cured, and the damage it causes cannot be reversed, it may be possible to live comfortably with it. USA Spine Care can help you learn how.

Before you begin treatment for degenerative joint disease, though, it is important to confirm your diagnosis in order to distinguish it from other causes of neck and back pain, which may require a different approach. Usually, a physician can diagnose a spine condition based on a medical history and symptom review, physical examination and possibly some imaging studies.

Strategies for managing spinal joint degeneration

Conservative treatment for degenerative joint disease usually focuses on managing pain and maintaining joint mobility. Some options include:

  • Pain medications. Many potentially effective medications can be readily obtained over the counter, including acetaminophen and certain nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen. To help ensure safety and avoid adverse drug interactions, all medication use should be closely monitored by a physician.
  • Strength training. Weight-bearing exercises can improve your muscle strength and flexibility, which in turn can reduce the burden on your overtaxed spinal facet joints. Initially, you may want to work with an experienced physical therapist who can recommend specific exercises and weights that are appropriate for you.
  • Aerobic exercise. Daily aerobic activity, such as walking, cycling or swimming, can improve your endurance, physical fitness and general well-being. It can also lead to weight loss and maintenance, which can lessen the stress on your spine.

Surgical treatment for degenerative joint disease

While medications, positive lifestyle habits and other nonsurgical therapies can be effective for breaking a cycle of facet joint pain, the relief is usually temporary. If you notice that your symptoms are coming back with increasing frequency or severity, surgery may be an appropriate next step.

If you’d like to learn about surgical treatments for degenerative joint disease, contact USA Spine Care and ask for a free MRI review.* We can explain your options and help you determine if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive outpatient surgery.

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