Degenerative joint disease (DJD), or osteoarthritis (OA), results from an accumulation of wear and tear at the cartilage, which is located between two bones that make up a joint. This condition can affect virtually any joint in the body but is most common in the knees, hands, hips, and spine. The typical underlying cause of this condition is chronic repetitive motion that results in inflammation and structural joint damage.
This condition is associated with pain, inflammation, loss of function, stiffness, decreased range of motion and reduced tolerance to joint loading. Pain is usually worse when waking in the morning and subsides after about 30 minutes to an hour.
Predisposing factors include repetitive motion and loading, infection, arthritic and inflammatory conditions, osteoporosis, hormone disorders, obesity, and sickle cell disease, among other musculoskeletal disorders. This condition is equally common in men and women before age 55 but increases in women thereafter. Higher rates are observed in the hips in men and in the knees in women. An old trauma or injury can have a profound impact on the progression of DJD/OA, leading to early onset of symptoms.
DJD/OA is a progressive disease that affects all of us at some given point in time. Rehabilitation and exercize can help maintain strong and healthy joints, limiting the stress exerted on these structures and thus minimizing progression of the condition. Musculoskeletal assessments may also be beneficial in identifying and addressing dysfunctional areas within the body before they begin to degenerate and cause pain.
Guided rehabilitation is the first line of defense against disease progression. Low-impact regular or aquatic exercizes can be exceptionally useful during the initial phases of treatment. Depending on what joint is affected, weight loss can also have a positive impact. During the later stages of rehabilitation, focusing on increasing muscular strength and coordination is essential. Patients who participate in regular exercize tend to experience greater improvement.
If minimal changes are observed with the help of rehabilitation, chiropractic techniques can help decrease pressure on the joint and increase range of motion, allowing for increased synovial fluid circulation within the joint capsule, which results in decreased pain and improved function. Photobiomodulation/laser therapy can also be exceptionally effective because it directly increases cellular turnover at the site of injury and increases overall tissue integrity, thus decreasing pain and dysfunction.
Once the condition is under control, preventing undue stress at the joint is paramount to minimizing any risk of re-exacerbation. Since this is a progressive disease, it may not ever fully go away but its progression can be slowed, and in some cases even reversed, given appropriate therapy and management. If the above treatments fail, imaging and an orthopedic referral may be warranted.