What are Degenerative Joint Diseases?

Degenerative joint disease is more common than you’d think. Osteoarthritis affects over 32.5 million adult Americans. The disease progresses and worsens over time. It's important to know the risk factors and get your symptoms checked early.

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Defining Degenerative Joint Disease

Degenerative joint disease is a “wear and tear” disease. It is the significant breakdown of the cartilage found between the bones. It can affect any of the joints in the body. Upper body joints such as the spine, shoulders, and hands are prone to arthritis. The disease also affects structural weight-bearing joints found in the ankles, hips, and knees.

There are two main types of arthritis: primary and secondary. Primary arthritis concerns general parts of the body. The latter concerns pre-existing joint defects and disorders. Joint defects can occur as a result of injury or trauma. 

Symptoms of Degenerative Joint Disease

It's important to catch symptoms early to seek treatment and relieve pain. Arthritis is more likely to affect post-menopausal women. People who have diabetes, or obesity are at risk for this disease. Predisposing factors include age and medical history. Lifestyle choices such as sports or work are other risk factors. Past injury or physical trauma increases the chances of developing the disease.   

The rapid decline of the cartilage in the bones causes mild to severe symptoms. The severity and intensity of the joint damage differ in every affected person. 

Common symptoms include:

  1. Increasing chronic pain and swelling over time.
  2. Joint stiffness.
  3. Joint tenderness.
  4. Bone spurs, projections that develop along the joints.
  5. Loss of flexibility and restricted joint movement.

Treatment Options for Joint Pain

Osteoarthritis affects the entire joint. There isn't a cure for osteoarthritis but there are ways to manage the disease. Healing can be a labour-intensive process. 

The first step in treating arthritis is a diagnosis.  Diagnosis includes a complete physical exam by your physician. Blood tests and imaging tests are often employed by the physician. Your healthcare provider determines the best treatment plan based on the diagnosis.

There are many non-surgical options to manage OA symptoms. One of the main focus of these options is pain management. OTC pain medication can provide temporary relief to joint pain. Discuss with your healthcare provider the medication best suited to your needs. Alternative medicine can also be a source of pain relief. 

You can reach out to different types of healthcare providers to reduce joint pain. For people with obesity, excess weight makes arthritis worse. Losing weight can help in disease control.  To improve mobility, physical therapists guide you through exercises focusing on muscle strength. Occupational therapists can help you learn how to cope with affected joints.

In cases where joint pain increases, surgery is an available option. Surgery options depend on your physician’s endorsement. They will look at the affected area as well as the severity of the disease. The speed of recovery in these procedures varies. You can consult an orthopaedic surgeon for more information regarding surgical treatment options. 

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For Best Results Get Degenerative Joint Diseases Workbook