Degenerative joint disease (DJD), also called osteoarthritis, involves the breakdown of cartilage covering joint articular surfaces. A smooth cartilage coating helps the articular surfaces of joints to slide smoothly against one another. If cartilage wears away, exposed bone surfaces will rub against one another, resulting in pain, stiffness, and other uncomfortable symptoms.
Osteoarthritis can occur within any joint of the body. When this condition affects the joints of the neck and back called facet joints, symptoms can include pain, tenderness, stiffness, limited range of motion, and swelling. Symptoms may be felt in the neck, back, shoulders, hips, buttocks, or extremities, depending on the location of the affected spinal joints. Fortunately, many treatment types are available for relief of DJD symptoms.
Most doctors begin treatment for degenerative joint disease with conservative, non-invasive therapies. This may include one or more of the following:
- Pain medications or anti-inflammatory medications (either over-the-counter or prescription)
- Physical therapy
- Intermittent rest
- Hot/cold therapy
- Stretching and low impact exercise
- And others
Some patients may choose to explore alternative therapies, either in conjunction with their doctor-prescribed conservative treatments or in lieu of them. Acupuncture, chiropractics, massage therapy, yoga, and Pilates have benefitted many patients with osteoarthritis, though the efficacy of these treatments remains unproven by scientific investigation.
If conservative and alternative treatments are ineffective, a physician or back specialist may recommend neck or back surgery. Traditionally these surgeries involved significant risks and required a lengthy hospital stay and recovery period. With advances in medical technology, minimally invasive procedures, such as those performed at Laser Spine Institute, have become an attractive alternative to traditional open spine surgery. Laser Spine Institute surgeons use state-of-the-art endoscopic technology permitting smaller incisions and less disruption of normal tissue to perform surgeries which were impossible in the past. Laser Spine Institute’s minimally invasive surgery is safer and much better tolerated than traditional surgery. Therefore it is now performed on an outpatient basis. Contact Laser Spine Institute for more information and to schedule a complimentary review of your MRI or CT scan.