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What is severe degenerative joint disease in the spine?

An early sign of degenerative joint disease in the spine (spinal osteoarthritis) may be a stiff neck or back that seems to be worse in the morning and then improves throughout the day. This relatively common form of arthritis results from a reduction in facet joint cartilage, which is the connective tissue situated between the vertebrae in each spinal joint. The associated discomfort is usually mild initially and then worsens over time.

Healthy cartilage acts as a cushion to prevent the bones in a joint from grinding against each another during movement. With constant use, cartilage can gradually break down, allowing the bones to rub together. As the condition becomes more severe, the resulting bone-on-bone contact can lead to pain as well as the development of protective bone spurs, which can decrease joint mobility and also lead to spinal nerve compression.

How to manage degenerative joint disease pain

Many people are able to live comfortably with mild-to-moderate spinal osteoarthritis by managing their pain and other symptoms with conservative treatments. On the other hand, surgery may be appropriate to address severe degenerative joint disease of the spine, which is mostly characterized by pain that limits mobility or disrupts sleep.

In general, spinal osteoarthritis treatment focuses on managing pain and maintaining joint mobility. There is a wide variety of pain-relieving medications available, including many over-the-counter options such as aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen and naproxen. It is advisable to consult with a physician before regularly using any medications, including over-the-counter remedies, in order to help prevent possible drug interactions and side effects.

Exercise is another excellent treatment option. In addition to promoting overall health, fitness and wellness, regular exercise is essential for keeping the spinal joints flexible and increasing the strength of the surrounding muscles, which in turn can help reduce the weight burden on damaged facet joints. Low-impact activities such as walking, cycling and swimming can be very effective forms of exercise that minimize any stress on the spine. Before beginning a new workout plan, it’s important to receive clearance from a physician. Also, it can be beneficial to work with an experienced physical therapist who can provide instruction on how to perform specific exercises that are appropriate for spinal osteoarthritis.

Surgical treatment for severe degenerative joint disease of the spine

If you’ve been diagnosed with severe spinal osteoarthritis and would like to explore your surgical treatment options, contact USA Spine Care. Our team can provide a free MRI review* to determine if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive outpatient surgery, which is a safer and effective alternative to traditional open spine surgery.^

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