It is time to rethink the outdated idea that your wear and tear arthritis will leave you in life altering pain.
More than 50% of adults over the age of 65 are affected by degenerative joint disease. Degenerative joint disease (Osteoarthritis, wear and tear arthritis) occurs when the cartilage that serves as a cushion in the joints deteriorates. This condition can affect any joint but is most common in the spine, knees, hands, and hips.
This condition can be associated with
- Affected joints might hurt during or after movement.
- Joint stiffness might be most noticeable upon awakening or after being inactive.
- Your joint might feel tender when you apply light pressure to or near it.
- You might not be able to move your joint through its full range of motion.
- You might feel a grating sensation when you use the joint, and you might hear popping or crackling.
- Swelling might be due to soft tissue inflammation around the joint.
To understand how we get osteoarthritis of the low back we need to first talk about anatomy. The spine is a big connection between many bones. The bones give us support and protect the body’s nervous system. These bones have a joint called a facet joint and that joint's health is affected by the health of the disc. The back has a cushion between most of these bones called a disc (think of this being the jelly of a donut). It also has a cartilage portion around the disc (think about this as the bread that holds the jelly in the donut). Lastly, there is a cartilage endplate (think about the jelly donut being wrapped in foil to keep it warm).
The first phase of degenerative disc disease of the low back starts with dysfunction of the way the low back joints move and tears begin to happen in the cartilage or bread portion of our donut. Then separation of the outer cartilage or the foil wrapper happens. When this occurs nothing is left to hold the disc or jelly from leaking out. Now this jelly causes irritation (inflammation) on the facet joints and can cause irritation to the body’s nerve system.
What happens next in the second phase, is the body tries to stop the irritation from the disk or the jelly. This causes instability due to an attempt to re-absorb the disc or jelly. Now there becomes a loss of low back disk space height where the jelly donut use to sit and prop up the bones. The impact on the disc changes the way the spine facet joints move as well.
Lastly, with degenerative disc disease, the body tries to help stabilize the unstable spine joint and it does this the only way it knows how to, through laying down more bone. The increased bone leads to changes we can see on x-rays, such as osteophyte formation and narrowing of portions of the bones where the body’s nerves are.
- You feel symptoms of giving way
- A catch with movement
- Pain throughout the day, and pain during movement
- Over time the symptoms are the pain of decreasing severity with a more constant nature
- Muscle tenderness
- Reduced movement
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis, affecting an estimated 302 million people worldwide. It is a degenerative,"wear-and-tear" type of arthritis that occurs most often in people 50 years of age and older, but may occur in younger people. The cartilage in the joints gradually wears away. The joint becomes frayed, rough, and the protective space between the bones decreases. This can result in bone rubbing on bone, and produce painful bone spurs.
Generally, the pain develops gradually over time, although sudden onset is also possible. There are other symptoms, as well:
- The joint may become stiff and swollen, making it difficult to move.
- Pain and swelling may be worse in the morning, or after sitting or resting.
- Vigorous activity may cause pain to flare up.
- You may get lock, stick, creak, click, snap or grinding like noises during movement.
- Pain may cause a feeling of weakness or giving out.
- Many people with arthritis note increased joint pain with rainy weather.
With hip Osteoarthritis, the pain is usually described as being in the groin or thigh. The degenerative joint disease of the knee most often results in pain indirectly in the knee joint. The hand commonly gets wear and tear in the base of the thumb, joint closest to the fingertip, and the middle joint of a finger.