Degenerative Joint Disease - Osteoarthritis | MedStar Health

Degenerative joint disorder, also known as osteoarthritis, occurs when the cartilage that cushions the joints begins to deteriorate. Cartilage is normally a smooth material located between bones that reduces friction from movement, but when someone is suffering from osteoarthritis it begins to lose moisture and is easily worn-down. When these natural buffers between the bones shrink (most commonly due to age), the spaces between the bones get reduced and the likelihood of developing bone spurs from the added friction increases. Pain, numbness, weakness, and stiffness can occur when these bone spurs pinch a nerve.

Most treatments for this disorder include healthy lifestyle changes (diet and exercise) and pain management medication. These may be over-the-counter pain medications, like acetaminophen or NSAIDS, and even specific antidepressants. If symptoms continue despite conservative methods, the pain specialist may recommend steroid injections (corticosteroids are injected into the joints to reduce pain), hyaluronic acid injections (lubricant is injected into the joint to decrease friction), bone realignment surgery (a procedure to relieve the pressure of movement from one joint and pass it to another), or joint replacement surgery (where the worn parts of a joint are replaced with man-made materials).

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