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How sports participation can contribute to degenerative joint disease

Degenerative joint disease of the spine, or spinal osteoarthritis, refers to the breakdown of joint cartilage that can lead to inflammation and other painful symptoms in the facet joints that link the vertebrae in the spinal column. While the primary underlying cause is natural breakdown due to aging, there are other factors that can accelerate this process, including participation in certain sports.

Staying active can certainly be an important part of spine health and preventing conditions like degenerative joint disease. However, there are some activities that can have a negative affect due to the amount of stress they put on spinal anatomy, especially the facet joints. Learning more about how certain sports can affect the spinal facet joints can be helpful in both the treatment and prevention of this condition.

Sports and degenerative joint disease

A single, traumatic incident can lead to immediate damage to the spine, which can make the affected area more susceptible to developing the symptoms of degenerative joint disease. More often, however, this wearing down of the cartilage within the joints is caused by repeated usage. Just like baseball pitchers often experience arthritis in their shoulders due to throwing pitch after pitch, golfers are susceptible to degenerative joint disease in their lumbar spines because they constantly bend and twist to hit every ball. Although exerting such force on the spine is proper golfing form, it can be damaging, especially considering that the effect accumulates over hundreds of swings. Here are some other high-impact sports that can put stress on the facet joints and potentially cause degenerative joint disease in the spine:

  • Hockey
  • Football
  • Wrestling
  • Gymnastics
  • Running

If you do participate in any of these sports and are concerned about developing degenerative joint disease, or you’ve already been diagnosed, speak with your doctor about how to safely participate in your favorite activity. In some cases you may be recommended to avoid certain activities.

Treatment for degenerative joint disease

If you have been diagnosed with degenerative joint disease of the spine after participating in a sport or other activity, researching your treatment options is key. Although there isn’t a known cure for osteoarthritis, there are some conservative treatments that can provide some relief from your symptoms, such as anti-inflammatory medication and physical therapy.

If you’ve been trying these treatments for months without satisfactory relief from your symptoms, you may be asked to consider spine surgery. As an alternative to traditional open neck or back procedures, USA Spine Care provides minimally invasive outpatient spine surgery that offers our patients less risk of complication and no lengthy recovery.^

To learn more, contact our dedicated team today. We can offer a no-cost review of your MRI or CT scan* to determine if you may be a candidate for one of our procedures.

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