What is Degenerative Joint Disease?
“What is degenerative joint disease, and what did I do to come down with it?” That’s a common reaction from spinal patients after receiving a diagnosis of osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease. The degeneration usually results from the normal process of aging, typically beginning in middle age with the breakdown of cartilage, the rubbery tissue that serves as a cushion between bones and around joints. Degenerative joint disease is the most common joint disorder, and is frequently seen in the joints of the spinal column due to the many stresses and strains put on these joints. Occupations that involve physically demanding kneeling or squatting can also predispose one to degenerative joint disease, and injury or disease can also contribute to degenerative changes in the affected area later in life. Excessive weight, lack of exercise, smoking and a poor diet can also exacerbate the degeneration.
Degeneration in the spine is characterized by a breakdown of the cushioning spinal discs. This leads to bones rubbing against each other, resulting in pain, stiffness, swelling, reduced motion of the joint and other associated symptoms.
A number of treatment options are available for degenerative joint disease of the spine, including physical therapy, medications and injections. For patients with moderate to severe osteoarthritis not improved by conservative approaches, spinal decompression surgery may provide relief by reducing pressure on pinched nerves resulting from the reduction in cushioning the degenerative joint disease causes. The decompression procedure has historically been performed in tandem with spinal fusion surgery, to stabilize the spine by fusing two vertebrae together at the point where the decompression procedure was performed. Today the TOPS™ System provides a clinically proven superior alternative to spinal fusion, enabling patients to maintain the full range of motion of each individual vertebra. You may not be able to stop natural degenerative changes, but a range of effective medical options are available to treat them. A qualified specialist can help you choose the one that’s right for you.