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What is Degenerative Joint Disease, or Osteoarthritis?


Osteoarthritis (OA), also referred to as degenerative joint disease, is a common chronic condition; according to the Arthritis Foundation, OA affects approximately 27 million Americans. Osteoarthritis can affect any of your joints, but commonly affects the joints in the neck, lower back, hips, knees, and fingers.

Healthy joints are cushioned with cartilage in between the bones so that the joint moves smoothly. Osteoarthritis is a condition in which the cushioning cartilage breaks down or deteriorates, causing pain and swelling which interferes with the movement of the joint. Like any arthritis of the spine, osteoarthritis is a progressive disease. As the cartilage wears away, the body protects itself by producing bone spurs. Bone spurs are tiny, smooth protrusions of bone that attempt to create the space between the bones formerly provided by cartilage. In severe degenerative joint disease, the cartilage wears away completely, allowing bone to rub against bone which causes more pain and additional damage to the joint. Surgery may be required to relieve the pain associated with bone spurs.

There are minimally invasive back and neck pain treatments that can relieve your chronic pain and make it easier for you to get back to doing the things you enjoy. Back Pain Centers of America (BPC) has helped thousands find relief from debilitating pain and can help you, too. Give us a call at [sc name=”patient_phone_number_dash”] today to learn more.

How degenerative joint disease can cause pain

What Causes Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is caused by the deterioration of the cartilage that cushions the ends of your joint’s bones. As this happens, movement of the joint causes friction and the cartilage continues to wear down more and more, leading to bone rubbing against bone.

There are several factors that increase your risk of developing osteoarthritis, including:

  • Your age – Osteoarthritis risk increases with age.
  • Your sex – Though the reason is not yet known, women are statistically more likely to develop osteoarthritis than men.
  • Your family history – Your genetics may influence your risk of developing the condition.
  • Previous joint injuries – Injuries to the joints, including injuries from a long time ago, increase your risk of developing degenerative joint disease. These types of injuries are typically sustained in an accident or while participating in sports.
  • Being overweight – Extra body weight puts more stress on the spine, hips, and other weight-bearing joints. Excess body fat has also been linked to joint inflammation.
  • Certain occupations – Jobs that involve repetitive motion and strain on the joints can cause the cartilage around your joints to wear down faster.

Bone and joint disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis, can also increase your risk of developing degenerative joint disease.

Degenerative Joint Disease Symptoms

Degenerative joint disease symptoms will differ depending on the severity of damage to the joints and which joints are affected.

The most common degenerative joint disease symptoms are:

  • Pain over the affected joint
  • Stiffness
  • Grating sensation when moving the joint

Osteoarthritis of the facet joints in the spine can cause neck or back pain, depending on which part of the spine is affected. If inflammation in the joint or bone spurs extend into the spinal canal and irritate a nerve, you might also feel pain, numbness, or weakness that extends along the nerve’s pathway to the shoulders, arms, buttocks, and legs. Headaches and decreased range of motion are also common degenerative joint disease symptoms.

degenerative disease of the spine

Osteoarthritis Treatment Options

The goals of osteoarthritis treatment are to relieve pain, improve range of motion, and try to slow the progression of the damage to the joints. A combination of non-invasive therapies is effective for many. These include (check with your doctor for which is best for you):

  • Weight Management – Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight through a healthy diet and exercise can reduce your joint pain and limit further damage to your joints.
  • Physical activity – Low impact exercise can help improve your pain and flexibility, as well as help you to maintain a healthy weight, which will limit the stress on your joints. Exercises to strengthen the muscles that support your joints are also important.
  • Heat and cold packs– Applying heat and cold packs can help relieve pain and inflammation in the joint.
  • Pain medication – Analgesics and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can relieve pain and inflammation. Prescription strength pain medication may be prescribed for a limited time if over-the-counter medication doesn’t provide relief.
  • Corticosteroids – These powerful anti-inflammatory medicines can be taken orally or injected directly into the affected joint(s) for temporary pain relief.
  • Physical therapy – A physical therapist can work with you to improve the way you use your joints and teach you special exercises to help improve your range of motion.
  • Hyaluronic acid (HA) – HA is a naturally occurring fluid in the body that lubricates the joints and reduces friction during movement. HA injections may be used to reduce pain in your joint.

In some cases, surgical osteoarthritis treatment may be necessary. Joint replacement surgery is a common osteoarthritis treatment. Spine surgery is also often used to treat severe degenerative joint disease. There are also minimally invasive spine surgery options that can remove bone spurs and take pressure off compressed nerves to relieve radiating pain and weakness.

BPC offers minimally invasive outpatient procedures that offer quick relief of symptoms and a speedy recovery. Get matched with one of our board-certified surgeons by calling [sc name=”patient_phone_number_dash”] today. Don’t delay relief.

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