Degenerative joint disease commonly develops gradually over time as a result of changes associated with the natural aging process. The spine, which supports the body and bears most of its weight, is composed of an intricate system of vertebrae, joints, discs, muscles and ligaments. The cartilage-lined vertebral joints have the important role of stabilizing the spine and allowing for the smooth movement of its components. As the protective cartilage lining of the joints slowly wears away, bone-on-bone contact can occur. This condition, which is sometimes painful, is known as degenerative joint disease, or osteoarthritis.
The majority of people will experience some degree of degenerative back pain at one point or another point during their lives. Additionally, lifestyle factors such as smoking, obesity and repetitive activity have been found to hasten its onset.
Nonsurgical treatments for degenerative joint disease
A patient who has been diagnosed with degenerative joint disease and is experiencing symptoms, such as localized or radiating pain, stiffness, headaches or fatigue, is typically treated initially with nonsurgical approaches. Some commonly recommended techniques include:
- A brief period of rest followed by lifestyle changes like posture improvement, quitting smoking or losing weight
- Pain relievers
- Muscle relaxants
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications
- Physical therapy
- Low-impact exercise
- Deep tissue massage
- Spinal injections
Some patients also find relief through alternative treatments like yoga and acupuncture. If several weeks or months of conservative treatment do not produce adequate relief, spine surgery might be recommended as a last resort to address osteoarthritis.
When to consider spine surgery
If nonsurgical treatment options prove insufficient and a physician recommends surgical intervention to treat your degenerative joint disease, you should know that highly invasive open neck or back surgery is not your only choice. The surgeons at USA Spine Care perform minimally invasive outpatient procedures that are a safer and effective alternative to traditional open spine surgery.^ By using muscle-sparing techniques we are able to access the spine with a less than 1-inch incision, allowing for a streamlined patient experience with many advantages. To learn more, please contact us today.
We can help you receive a free MRI or CT scan review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.
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