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What can be done for degenerative joint disease in the spine?

Typically, the symptoms of degenerative joint disease become more apparent with age. This type of spinal degeneration affects the smooth cartilage that protects the vertebrae at the points where those bones meet in the facet joints. As the cartilage gradually breaks down and wears away, bone-on-bone contact can occur, leading to painful inflammation that intensifies over time.

Usually, the initial sign of degenerative joint disease in the spine is either a stiff neck or lower back pain, depending on the site and extent of the degeneration. Later, as the deterioration becomes more pronounced, the spinal cord or a nerve root may become compressed by displaced tissue, such as a cartilage fragment or inflamed joint. This can cause a number of symptoms, including muscle weakness, numbness and tingling sensations that travel along an affected nerve’s pathway.

Early treatment

If your painful symptoms recently led to a degenerative joint disease diagnosis, your physician may advise you to try some conservative pain management techniques. For instance, some options that many people find to be helpful include:

  • Applying hot or cold compresses for temporary relief from localized pain. The application of a heating pad to a painful spinal joint can promote relaxation, reduce swelling and improve circulation. Alternatively, an ice pack can be useful for momentarily numbing a painful area. You can experiment with these simple treatments at home to find out which approach works best for you.
  • Using physician-recommended medications and supplements as needed. You can find a wide variety of pain relievers and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) at a local pharmacy without a prescription. Also readily available are topical analgesics and nutritional supplements, such as glucosamine and chondroitin, which may help with neck or back pain.
  • Slowing down. As you become more accustomed to living with degenerative joint disease, you will learn to recognize some of your body’s signals that warn of approaching pain. To help prevent discomfort before it occurs, you should make it a habit to take frequent breaks from whatever you are doing, whether it involves intensive physical activity or maintaining a passive but stressful body position, such as sitting, standing or using a computer for an extended period of time.

Studies continually show that people who are proactive in taking care of their spines and overall health are more likely to achieve positive outcomes than their less attentive counterparts. By making positive lifestyle changes today, such as exercising regularly and avoiding tobacco use, you may be able to reduce the need for more aggressive degenerative joint disease treatment later on.

USA Spine Care

If you’ve tried nonsurgical degenerative joint disease treatment for a few weeks or months and your discomfort did not improve, you may want to think about surgery. Before consenting to a traditional open spine procedure, however, you should explore all of your options, which may include a safer and effective alternative^ available at USA Spine Care.

To learn more and find out if you’re a candidate for minimally invasive outpatient surgery, contact USA Spine Care.

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