Can Degenerative Joint Disease Be Cured?
Degenerative joint disease affects millions of people worldwide, primarily in the form of arthritis. In the United States alone, approximately 32.5 million people suffer from osteoarthritis, which is one of the most common forms of the 100 different types of arthritis. While the highest incidence is among people aged 55-64, with women being the most affected, those above the ages of 45 are also susceptible to this joint degeneration.
Degenerative diseases of the joints develop with inflammation in the joints or when the cartilage within the joints in the human body (usually the spine, hands, hips, and knees) begins to wear down. As the damage increases, the bones in the body begin to rub against each other causing tremendous pain, swelling, and stiffness in the joints. In more severe cases, it can also lead to reduced functionality and mobility.
The damage caused by the degeneration of joints can neither be reversed nor completely cured; however, it can be managed symptomatically with a multitude of pain treatment options.
Common Causes and Symptoms of Degenerative Joint Disease
Degenerative joint diseases set in over a period of time and do not progress rapidly. Apart from the natural process of wear and tear that the human body is prone to, there are other factors that can expedite the process of damage. These include:
- Exercises/sports that inflict repetitive stress on joints, overuse of specific joints such as the spine, knees, hips, and hands
- Gender, where women are said to be 62% more vulnerable when it comes to joint degeneration
- Race, specific races and ethnic groups are at a higher risk for developing a degenerative joint disease
- Obesity, being overweight or obese adds stress on joints
- Genetic factors, those with a family history of degenerative joint disease are at a higher risk of developing it themselves
- Bone deformities, these can expedite damage to the joints and bones
- Certain metabolic conditions such as diabetes and hemochromatosis are also known to increase the chances of developing degenerative joint disease
- Improper joint alignment
- Trauma such as car wrecks and sports injuries
The most common symptoms of joint degeneration include the following:
- Pain of varying intensities
- Reduced mobility
- Grating and shifting sensations with motion
- Stiffness in the joints
- Reduced functionality
- Growth of bone spurs in the affected region
- Tenderness in the joints
An individual suffering from degenerative joint disease may also experience the following:
- Pain while standing, walking, climbing, or getting up
- Limping movement on the side where the painful joint is located
What are the Possible Complications Arising due to Degenerative Joint Disease?
One of the most common complications of degenerative joint disease is acute or chronic pain, which impedes your lifestyle and daily routine. This often leads to stress, anxiety, and depression.
Apart from these specific conditions, osteoarthritis can also result in:
- Bone death or osteonecrosis
- Complete loss of stability due to the breakdown of the supporting structures around the affected joints
- Rapid breakdown of cartilage
- Bleeding or infection in the joints
- Stress fractures
- Pinched nerves
Is Osteoarthritis Different from Degenerative Joint Disease?
While arthritis refers to the inflammation of joints, degenerative arthritis or osteoarthritis is indicative of the “breaking-down” of joint cartilage in different parts of the body, which gets progressively worse. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of degenerative joint disease. Known in common parlance as wear-and-tear arthritis, this occurs with the gradual wearing down of the cartilage. In the case of a fracture or dislocation, post-injury or trauma, post-traumatic osteoarthritis can occur.
Apart from osteoarthritis, there are several other types of degenerative joint diseases. Following are some among the most common varieties:
- Rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammatory disease in the joints
- Hip dysplasia, which causes poor alignment in the hip joint
- Avascular necrosis, a condition where the femoral head loses its supply of blood, causing the bone to die and become misshapen
- Hereditary diseases such as mucopolysaccharidoses
Treatment Options for Degenerative Joint Disease at Advanced Pain Care
To facilitate the right treatment plan for your specific condition, the specialists at Advanced Pain Care will begin with a comprehensive evaluation for diagnosis.
The evaluation will begin with a physical examination, during which the doctor will check the affected joints for the following:
- Range of motion/flexibility
- Pain levels
To obtain an accurate view of the affected joints, you may be asked to get the following imaging tests done:
- X-rays – This is done in case of suspected bone spurs or cartilage loss.
- MRIs – This provides detailed images of the bone and cartilage that can help in diagnosing complex conditions.
In specific cases, for example to detect rheumatoid arthritis, gout, or infections, you may be asked to get some blood tests and/or a joint fluid analysis done.
At Advanced Pain Care, the following treatment options are facilitated by the specialists depending on the diagnosis and the specificities of the condition:
- Medications – Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), acetaminophen, and duloxetine are among some of the medications prescribed.
- Therapy — Physical therapy to strengthen the supporting muscles around the affected joints, occupational therapy to make daily routines easier, and low-voltage electric currents in the form of Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation or TENS to relieve pain.
- Injections – Cortisone injections are sometimes prescribed for pain relief while lubrication injections are given to add some cushioning in the knee joints to reduce friction. Injections decrease inflammation and further degeneration, and the process of viscosupplementation or gel shots provides relief from inflammation.
Getting a timely medical evaluation and diagnosis can be crucial, especially in conditions such as osteoarthritis. While it has no cure and cannot be reversed, the progression can be mitigated.
Caring for osteoarthritis may begin with some recommendations:
- Lifestyle changes that include weight loss, a healthy diet, and regular exercise which includes low-impact workouts
- Hot/cold therapies to relieve swelling and pain
- Assistive devices to reduce stress on the affected joints
When Is Surgery Necessary for Osteoarthritis?
In most cases, non-surgical treatment options provide much-needed relief from pain and other symptoms. However, surgery may be necessary if your mobility is severely impacted, or the damage to the affected joints is getting progressively worse.
Following are some surgeries that may be recommended based on the specificities of your diagnosis and progression of degenerative joint disease:
- Arthroscopy – This is a minimally invasive procedure that is done to remove damaged cartilage, cysts, or fragments of bone.
- Arthroplasty – This is a total joint replacement using artificial joints to replace diseased parts of the joints.
- Osteotomy – This is a procedure done to realign limbs that are affected due to bone/joint damage.
- Joint fusion – This is done to stabilize damaged joints when they can’t be replaced.
- Nerve blocks and ablation – This can stop pain signals
How Can I Prevent Degenerative Joint Disease?
In most cases, joint degeneration is unavoidable, as it is associated with the natural process of aging, sudden injuries, or hereditary conditions. However, there are several other causes that can be controlled, managed, or prevented from your end. These include simple steps such as the following:
- Maintaining a healthy weight by sticking to a healthy and nutritious diet and exercise routine.
- Keeping an eye on sugar intake and blood pressure levels to make sure they’re in healthy ranges.
- Getting adequate sleep to avoid hormonal and metabolic disorders.
- Avoiding trauma
Connect with APC Specialists
At Advanced Pain Care, we believe in 360-degree pain management and care. To make this possible, we have multiple specialties collaborating under one roof to facilitate the best treatment options. If you need to schedule a consultation, seek a second opinion, or begin a course of surgical or non-surgical treatment, you can get timely pain management interventions from our specialists at all our different pain care centers.
Advanced Pain Care accepts insurance coverage from many different network carriers. Check the patient portal for easy access to all our facilities including prescriptions and bill pay. You can also refill a prescription or request records online should you need them.
We have several centers serving the locations of Austin, Amarillo, and Waco/Killeen as well as advanced surgery centers in Round Rock, Austin, and Amarillo. You can contact us on our mainline or check our website for center-specific contact details.
Mark T. Malone, M.D., is a Board Certified pain specialist and a native Texan. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at Austin, and went on to attend the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School. Dr. Malone attended Baylor College of Medicine… View Profile