Degenerative joint disease, also known as osteoarthritis, is a common joint disorder that occurs as a normal result of aging. Over time, the cartilage found in joints abrades, and the bones in the joint begin to make contact, which results in pain and swelling. Cartilage cushions the joint, allowing for smooth movement. When the cartilage wears away, the body may compensate by forming extra bone structures, while the muscles around the joint ultimately stiffen and lose their strength.
Most people begin to experience the signs of osteoarthritis by middle age, and both men and women report similar symptoms. After the age of 55, women often show more signs of the disease than men do, although virtually everyone will have some symptoms by age 70. Some factors can predict the onset of osteoarthritis, including a family history of the disease, repeated joint injuries, participation in contact sports, and obesity. Certain medical disorders may also put a person at risk.
Individuals with osteoarthritis have several options for treatment, but the disease has no cure. Some must resort to surgery, but physicians generally recommend several other interventions first, such as anti-inflammatory medications and over-the-counter pain relievers. When surgery proves necessary, a surgeon either replaces a joint entirely or repairs it, often using arthroscopic techniques. Sometimes altering the alignment of bone structures relieves pain and increases movement.
Additional remedies include physical therapy, which can allow people to reclaim full joint movement and strengthen their muscles. Massage therapy offers temporary pain relief. Splints and braces may be recommended to support joints with degenerated cartilage. Doctors can suggest the best type of brace for a specific joint. Simple lifestyle changes are another way to provide significant relief. These changes can include eating a balanced diet, getting more rest, losing weight, and regularly applying heat and cold to the affected joint. Some individuals may want to consider alternative treatments, such as acupuncture.
About the Author
Dr. Mark Kabins maintains board certification in orthopedic and spine surgery. Managing Las Vegas Neurosurgery, Orthopaedics, and Rehabilitation, LLP, he offers patients the highest level of care. In addition to treating several different conditions, including osteoarthritis, scoliosis, and internal disc disruption, Dr. Mark Kabins works with patients who have sustained spinal cord injuries and those with infections or tumors. Dr. Kabins is a Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.