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Learn about degenerative joint disease from the medical team at Laser Spine Institute in St. Louis

If you believe that you are experiencing symptoms of degenerative joint disease, take the time to educate yourself about its causes and your treatment options for this fairly common condition that is present in most people over the age of 50.

Defining degenerative joint disease

Also referred to as facet disease or spinal osteoarthritis, degenerative joint disease is defined as the gradual deterioration of the cartilage in the facet joints of the spine. The facet joints are located where the vertebrae of the spine connect to each other, and the cartilage in the joints allows them to bend and move easily.

How is degenerative joint disease diagnosed?

Before your physician makes a degenerative joint disease diagnosis, it will be necessary for you to undergo a thorough examination. This process will likely include a discussion about your family history and a review of your medical history to determine if there are any pertinent hereditary factors or existing conditions. Your physician will then perform a full physical exam to determine the source of your symptoms and gauge your flexibility and muscle strength. If a degenerative spinal condition is suspected, your physician will likely order a diagnostic imaging procedure to help determine the location and cause of your symptoms.

Understanding the causes of degenerative joint disease

For many affected, degenerative joint disease is an unavoidable byproduct of the natural aging process. The facet joints in your spine are vulnerable to deterioration because they bear weight while being involved in near constant movement. This causes the cartilage in the joints to wear down, and when the bones in the facet joints rub together, painful symptoms can appear. Excess weight, a sedentary lifestyle and tobacco use are some of the factors that can contribute to the development of degenerative joint disease.

What are some of the symptoms of degenerative joint disease?

When the cartilage in the facet joints wears away and bone is rubbing against bone, it can cause pain and other symptoms associated with degenerative joint disease. Localized pain at the site of the degeneration, joint stiffness and a reduced range of motion are possible, and additional symptoms are likely if bone spurs develop in the joint and put pressure on a spinal nerve root or the spinal cord. Additional symptoms can include tingling or numbness, radiating pain, muscle weakness and more.

How is degenerative joint disease treated?

The key to treating degenerative joint disease is managing the symptoms. Speak to your physician about a conservative treatment plan that involves rest, pain medications, stretching, strengthening exercises and behavior modification. There are also several alternative options that you and your doctor may want to consider including chiropractic care, massage therapy, acupuncture and more.

Is surgery an option for degenerative joint disease?

Many patients will find relief from their degenerative joint disease symptoms through a combination of conservative and alternative treatments. However, surgery may be a consideration for those who are still experiencing severe pain or other symptoms.

At Laser Spine Institute in St. Louis, our board-certified surgeons+ perform minimally invasive, outpatient surgery for a variety of degenerative spinal conditions, including degenerative joint disease. To find out if you are a candidate, contact us today for a no-cost MRI review.*