Degenerative Joint Disorder
Degenerative joint disorder or disease (DJD), also commonly known as osteoarthritis, is a common type of arthritis that affects the joints in our body. Arthritis simply refers to inflammation of the joints. In degenerative joint disorder, the cartilage in the joints starts to wear down, especially in the hip, spine, and knees, which can cause stiffness and pain in the affected area. In some cases, it can also affect joints in the fingers, big toe, and neck.
Cartilage is a rubbery tissue that covers the ends of our bones, allowing them to move smoothly against each other without causing damage. In osteoarthritis, this cartilage starts to break down, which can cause discomfort and pain. The tendons and ligaments that hold the joints together can also be affected, causing further pain, discomfort, and increased risk of injury.
As the disease worsens, the bones in the joint can start to rub against each other, causing further damage and pain. Age is the main risk factor for developing osteoarthritis, with most people over 60 having some degree of the disease. However, genetics, joint overuse, scoliosis, injury, and obesity can also increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis.
The common symptoms of the degenerative joint disorder include joint pain, especially during movement, swelling, loss of joint motion, and even crunching, grinding, and clicking sounds in the joints.
How Can Degenerative Joint Disorder Cause Back Pain?
Many people with chronic back pain often discover that they have this disease. Back pain can cause deterioration in the cartilage between the joints in the spine, which helps support weight and control movement in each vertebra. This can cause severe pain during movement. The joints become inflamed and friction can cause pain. As the back pain increases, the spine becomes less flexible and its range of motion decreases. The once healthy synovial fluid that lubricates the joints also tends to thin, leading to further friction.
Having degenerative disease may cause bone spurs to form on the joints. If the spurs are especially large, they can cause pain or irritate nerves resulting in symptoms of tingling and numbness. Degenerative joints in the lower back cause stiffness and pain in the lower spine and sacroiliac joint. When it affects the neck or cervical spine, you may experience stiffness and pain in the neck, upper back, shoulders, head, and arms.
Diagnosing Degenerative Joint Disorder
A doctor can diagnose osteoarthritis by taking several factors into account, including the individual’s description of the pain, the location of the pain, and a physical exam. X-rays are commonly used to confirm a diagnosis and determine the amount of joint damage. Sometimes, blood tests are ordered to rule out other types of less common arthritis (examples include rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis). If there is fluid buildup in the joint, the doctor may collect a sample and have it examined under a microscope to confirm whether the symptoms are caused by the degenerative disease.
How is Degenerative Joint Disorder Treated?
Treatment options depend on age, activity level, medical history, overall health, location of the degenerative disease, and severity. Typically, treatment is a combination of physical therapy, strength training, pharmaceuticals, heat and cold therapy, possible fluid aspiration, use of brace, canes or crutches, and weight loss. Medications may include anti-inflammatory drugs, creams, gels, sprays, anti-inflammatory injections, hyaluronic acid joint injections, pain medications, and even anti-depressants. It’s important to note that some medications aim to stop or slow the progression of joint deterioration. They also help to manage pain, swelling, and stiffness. If these treatments prove ineffective, surgery may be considered to reduce discomfort and improve function.
If you are experiencing swelling, localized tenderness when pressing on the spine, aching, a loss of flexibility in the spine, pinching, tingling, or numbness in a nerve or the spinal cord, or a crunching sound in your joints, speak with your doctor to inquire about degenerative joint disease to see if it could be the cause of your back pain.