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Experiencing degenerative joint disease symptoms in your neck or back? Learn about your treatment options from the orthopedic experts at Laser Spine Institute Tampa

Degenerative joint disease can occur in any joint in the body, including the facet joints that are located between the vertebrae in the spine. The facet joints allow the movements that the neck and back perform daily and are highly vulnerable to the development of degenerative joint disease.

Degenerative joint disease definition

Clinically referred to as osteoarthritis, degenerative joint disease can develop in the spine when the cushioning cartilage located on the joints between the vertebrae wears away. This cartilage normally allows the vertebral joints to glide smoothly across one another during body movements, and if it deteriorates it can lead to bones rubbing against bones and several potentially painful symptoms.

The diagnosis process for degenerative joint disease

Your primary care physician will likely be able to make a diagnosis of degenerative joint disease in the spine after a single office visit. The process usually includes a review of your medical history, a physical exam to test flexibility and identify areas of discomfort and a medical imaging procedure to pinpoint the area of the spine where the condition has developed. Your doctor might also use diagnostic facet joint injections to pinpoint the joints that are causing you the most pain and stiffness.

Causes and risk factors

The most prominent cause of the development of degenerative joint disease in the spine is the general wear the spine is subjected to on a daily basis, though traumatic injuries and activities that involve repetitive motion can also contribute. Degenerative joint disease is most common in the cervical (upper) spine and lumbar (lower) spine, because these are the regions that bend and twist most often. Heavy tobacco or alcohol use, as well as obesity, are risk factors that can speed this condition’s development.

Identifying the symptoms of degenerative joint disease

Most people experience some form of degenerative joint disease in the spine as they age, though the majority never notice any symptoms. In cases where the cartilage in the facet joints wears down to the point that bones are grinding against one another, the results can include localized pain, inflammation and neck and back stiffness. If degenerative joint disease causes the formation of bone spurs in the facet joints, other symptoms such as radiating pain, numbness, tingling and muscle weakness can occur if a spinal nerve root or the spinal cord is put under pressure.

Know your treatment options

If you’ve received a diagnosis of degenerative joint disease in the spine and you are experiencing painful symptoms, there are nonsurgical options that can help you find relief. Your physician will likely suggest you try a combination of treatments for several weeks, including rest, nonprescription pain medications, physical therapy, low-impact strengthening exercises and hot/cold therapy. If you are overweight, shedding excess pounds can also reduce the daily strain that your spine endures.

Minimally invasive surgery at Laser Spine Institute

If the symptoms you are experiencing because of degenerative joint disease in your spine is affecting your day-to-day life and the conservative treatments you’ve tried have not provided relief, surgery may be your best option. At Laser Spine Institute’s Tampa, FL, surgery center, we perform minimally invasive, outpatient surgery to treat a variety of degenerative spine conditions, including degenerative joint disease.

Contact us today if you would like more information and to receive your no-cost MRI review* to find out if you may be a candidate for one of our procedures.