Degenerative spinal joint disease is a form of arthritis that affects the facet joints, which are located where the vertebrae meet and articulate along the spine. As we age, the facet joints can begin to wear down due to years of strenuous movement. Joint degeneration is particularly common in the cervical (upper) and lumbar (lower) regions of the spine, which are relatively mobile and subjected to greater wear and tear than the more stable thoracic (middle) region. This condition is typically related to the natural aging process that causes the joints to become less able to bear the load that is placed on them every day.
Conservative treatment for degenerative spinal joint disease
The symptom most commonly associated with facet joint degeneration is localized pain at the point where the joint cartilage has broken down. This breakdown of the protective cartilaginous coating on the joint can expose the adjacent nerve ending, producing pain that ranges from a dull ache to a debilitating sharp sensation. In many cases, chronic pain from spinal arthritis can be managed using one or more of the following conservative treatment methods:
- Rest. Short periods of rest can allow swelling to diminish. However this should be combined with periods of activity to improve joint flexibility and prevent muscle atrophy.
- Medication. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory or pain medication can help reduce inflammation and control pain.
- Exercise. Strength and flexibility are important, but any exercise program should be performed with the consultation of your doctor.
- Physical therapy. Sessions with a licensed physical therapist can help improve mobility and flexibility while potentially reducing pain.
- Spinal injections. These involve the insertion of a numbing agent and a corticosteroid into the region of the spine causing pain.
- Alternative methods. These include chiropractic therapy, acupuncture, electric stimulation and yoga.
When conservative treatment is not enough
If chronic pain persists after several months of conservative treatment, a doctor might recommend surgery as an option to address the symptoms of degenerative spinal joint disease. If you have concerns about the prospect of a highly invasive traditional open neck or back procedure, contact USA Spine Care to learn about the benefits of minimally invasive spine surgery. The orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons at USA Spine Care use state-of-the-art technology to perform outpatient procedures that can help you find lasting relief from neck and back pain.
Contact us today for your free MRI or CT scan review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.
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