Degenerative joint disease in the spine is caused by the gradual deterioration of the cartilage that lines the spinal facet joints. These joints, which link the vertebrae, are subjected to a lot of pressure due to the weight they support and the movement they facilitate. This constant stress can eventually wear away the protective cartilage, causing the bones within the facet joints to grind together. This bone-on-bone contact can lead to pain, stiffness and inflammation.
While it is generally considered an age-related condition, there are other factors that contribute to degenerative joint disease, including injury. This is because both traumatic and repetitive motion injuries can put increased stress on the joints, which over time can accelerate the natural aging process that is the main cause of degenerative joint disease. Whether you are trying to prevent or treat an injury to the spine, learning more about this relationship can be helpful in either case.
How injury causes the spinal joints to deteriorate
Any type of injury, from a vehicle accident to a sports injury, can damage a joint and the connective tissue around it. While the injury itself can heal, the aftermath can change the basic functioning of the joint in such a way that it wears out more quickly than normal. Examples of specific injuries that can lead to this include:
- Cartilage tears
- Ligament injuries
- Joint dislocations
Furthermore, because repetitive joint strain can cause the premature breakdown of cartilage, participation in certain occupations and hobbies can speed up the onset of degenerative joint disease. For example, those who perform physical labor or other activities that require constant bending and lifting have an increased risk of developing spinal osteoarthritis.
Promoting spinal health
With an awareness of degenerative joint disease causes, particularly those that occur through injury, you can take certain steps to help prevent osteoarthritis. Maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly and cross-training to strengthen your core and avoid repetitive movements can better protect your spine and improve your overall health.
If degenerative joint disease is diagnosed, many patients are able to find symptom relief through a course of conservative treatment options including medication, hot and cold compression, physical therapy and lifestyle changes such as the ones mentioned above. If your quality of life is still suffering after exhausting conservative methods, reach out to USA Spine Care to learn more about minimally invasive spine surgery.
Our outpatient procedures are a safer and effective alternative to traditional open neck or back surgery because we use muscle-sparing techniques that lead to a shorter recovery time for our patients.^
Contact us today to receive a no-cost MRI review* that can determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.
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