Severe degenerative joint disease can make every movement pure agony for some people. This advanced disease can also severely affect a person’s mobility, ambulation, and can prevent them from completing even the simplest tasks. This condition involves cartilage and joint inflammation that causes severe pain and discomfort.
In some cases, this disease is manageable, but if left untreated it can become worse over time. Because this disease progresses slowly, it’s totally possible to continue to enjoy the physical activities you love, if you act now.
Joints are found at the ends of bones, connecting one bone to another. Joints facilitate movement, providing essential stability to the musculoskeletal system. Areas of cartilage are found within the joints and add a type of cushioning the prevents the joints and bones from grinding against one another.
The joints bear a lot of weight and are frequently under strain as a person goes about their normal activities. Because of this, the joints are highly susceptible to injury and joint deterioration.
Degenerative joint disease is also referred to as osteoarthritis and it involves the inflammation and deterioration of shocking absorbing cartilage. This disease is actually very common, affecting more than 1/3 of people over the age of sixty-five.
Without treatment, this condition worsens and can end up affecting all of the major joints in the body including the joints in the knees, hips, hands, and spine. By proactively addressing this condition you can alleviate or in some cases even eliminate many of the debilitating symptoms and prevent the development of secondary conditions.
What Causes Osteoarthritis?
The main cause of osteoarthritis is general wear and tear and age. However, there are other factors that can exacerbate or incite this condition, such as making strenuous movements or frequently lifting heavy objects. Many people with manual labor jobs that require a lot of physical exertion are often at a higher risk of developing degenerative joint disease.
Studies have shown that women are more likely to develop osteoarthritis than men, which makes researchers believe that female hormones can also play a major role.
Additionally, unexpected traumas such as injuries that occur due to a car accident or high-impact sports, can also increase a person’s risk of developing osteoarthritis later in life.
Osteoarthritis Signs and Symptoms
This disease usually isn’t diagnosed until painful symptoms develop, causing a patient to seek medical attention.
Common symptoms include:
- Stiffness and pain surrounding the affected area especially after a period of inactivity
- Redness around the affected area
- Change in mobility
- Trouble standing
- Pain that occurs with basic tasks such as dressing or washing the dishes
- Pain when sitting
- A type of grating sensation when you try to move a joint
Degenerative joint disease can also encourage a wide range of related conditions such as spinal fractures and spinal stenosis, and herniated discs. In severe cases, a person will experience increased fatigue, muscle weakness, and back pain. This is why an early diagnosis is so important in order to improve and maintain quality of life.
Treatment will begin with an initial evaluation. If your physician suspects degenerative joint disease they will order imaging tests such as x-rays, a CT scan, or an MRI. Joint fluid analysis procedures and blood tests can also help your physician to identify the severity of your condition. Based on the information obtained, your doctor will design a personalized treatment plan that will meet your needs.
Typically, doctors recommend exploring more conservative treatment options before attempting surgery. There are many types of diseases and pain management options that can help to reduce and control many of the negative effects associated with degenerative joint disease. When treatment is implemented early, many of these treatments will allow a person to live the life they love without being hindered by osteoarthritis.
PT and Exercise
Physical therapy and exercise are often recommended. By losing weight and strengthening certain muscles it’s possible to reduce the amount of stress placed on the joints. Through targeted moderate exercises many women and men suffering from this disease will notice improved mobility and a reduction in pain. Physical therapy and guided exercise can play a major role in managing this condition.
Assisted Walking Devices
In some cases, assisted walking devices will be necessary in order to help strengthen muscles and improve mobility. The last thing a physician wants is for you to begin using a wheelchair, in which case your joint pain and stiffness can worsen. Devices such as crutches, canes, and walkers can help to keep you mobile and moving, encouraging improved circulation and helping to strengthen important muscles. Typically, in cases such as these, a doctor will recommend using a walker, which can provide more support and can help to improve balance and mobility.
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When medication becomes necessary, your doctor will prescribe anti-inflammatories designed to reduce inflammation that’s associated with osteoarthritis. This will help to reduce pain and improve mobility.
Cortisone injections are another option and one that can provide inflammation and pain relief for a substantial period of time.
Weight Loss and Dietary Changes
If you’re significantly overweight, your doctor may also recommend changing your diet.
Food for healthy joints and cartilage can help to improve joint lubrication and will naturally reduce inflammation. These whole foods can also help with weight loss and will also naturally boost your energy level and improve immune health.