What is Degenerative Joint Disease and How Do I Treat it? | Rothman Orthopaedic Institute (2024)

According to the World Health Organization, degenerative joint disease is one of the ten most disabling diseases in developed countries. It is estimated that more than 27 million Americans are affected.

But what is degenerative joint disease? Given how common it is, are you at risk of developing it later in life? How is this condition treated?

Understanding how your body functions and what conditions you are vulnerable to is essential to maintaining your health. Upon receiving a diagnosis, your orthopaedic specialist will explain the details of your condition. However, it helps to know ahead of time so you can effectively and immediately manage your symptoms.

What is Degenerative Joint Disease?

Degenerative joint disease, or osteoarthritis, is the most common type of arthritis. While this condition can occur in any joint, it usually affects the hands, knees, hips or spine.

This disease is common because wear and tear on the joints over time can cause cartilage to break down. This can happen to anyone but typically occurs in older adults. The degeneration of cartilage means that bones lose their cushioning. They are then vulnerable to rubbing against one another within the joint. As a result, the joint area becomes inflamed and painful, leading to a decrease in mobility. In addition, bone spurs, or pieces of bone, may form around the joint. Ligaments and muscles may also become both weaker and stiffer as arthritis worsens.

Common symptoms of osteoarthritis include:

What are Some Common Symptoms?

Above, we mentioned pain, inflammation, and stiffness, which are the most common symptoms arthritic patients report. More specifically, and depending on the location and type of your arthritis, you may also experience any of the following:

  • Pain, specifically when you move the affected joint

  • Pain in nearby areas of the body (i.e., if you have arthritis in your hip, you may experience discomfort in your groin, knees, or buttocks.)

  • Difficulty walking or putting pressure on the affected joint (for arthritis of the knee, foot, or ankle)

  • A sensation of warmth when touching the joint

  • “Flare-ups” after vigorous activity

  • Weakness(buckling of the knees)

Treatment Options for Degenerative Joint Disease

Degenerative arthritis cannot be cured. However, patients can implement conservative methods of treatment to manage symptoms and alleviate pain. An orthopaedic specialist may recommend any of the following options for degenerative joint disease patients.

  • Medication:Either over-the-counter or prescribed medications have been proven to decrease pain and inflammation. Ask your doctor before taking any medication.

  • Exercise:It is important to find an exercise routine that does not aggravate your symptoms more. For many patients, this means choosing low-impact activities (depending on which joints your arthritis is affecting). Daily stretching can also improve flexibility and increase mobility.

  • Physical Therapy:To ensure you are performing the correct rehabilitation exercises for your affected joints, see a physical therapist. A well-connected orthopaedic physician can recommend an excellent professional to you.

  • Assistive Devices:A cane, splint, or another device may alleviate some of your pain when either walking or resting.

For very severe joint damage, surgical options are available. Total or partial joint replacement surgery can remove the damaged cartilage and bone pieces in order to insert a prosthesis, which replicates the movement of a natural joint. An orthopaedic surgeon can tell you everything you need to know about preparing for surgery if and when the time comes.

Can Degenerative Joint Disease be Prevented?

While there is no definite way to prevent arthritis, there are ways to decrease your risk of arthritis developing. Many prevention methods are also general health recommendations:

  • Eat a balanced diet and avoid sugary, processed foods.

  • Maintain a healthy weight.

  • Do not smoke.

  • Take safety measures when playing sports, driving, etc.

Can Arthritis be Cured?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for arthritis. While people with arthritis may go into remission, defined by an absence of clinical symptoms, this should not be confused with a “cure.” Patients in remission are still considered to have arthritis and may experience flare-ups again.

While arthritis does not exactly go away, there are many different treatments available to help manage the associated symptoms of active arthritis.

Seek Treatment to Prevent Further Damage

As mentioned above, degenerative joint disease is a chronic condition that does not simply go away with treatment. However, this does not mean you should let your symptoms run your life. Moreover, if you do not have osteoarthritis, you can still take precautions to keep your joints as healthy and disease-free as possible.

At Rothman Orthopaedic Institute, our physicians and surgeons are dedicated to not only treating patients but also educating them on their musculoskeletal health. By taking care of your health and learning about this condition, you can continue thriving, no matter what diagnosis comes your way.

For more information on what degenerative joint disease is, or to schedule an appointment, please visit us here or contact us at 1-800-321-9999.

What is Degenerative Joint Disease and How Do I Treat it? | Rothman Orthopaedic Institute (2024)
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