Helpful Solutions for Your Degenerative Joint

Degenerative Joint Solutions

“Keep moving or I’ll have to do the moving for you”, is a phrase I commonly tell my patients that are experiencing joint inflammation and stiffness as a result of Degenerative Joint changes.  Osteoarthritis, or degenerative joint disease (DJD), has become a common household term in recent years. It has also a diagnosis that more individuals are being given by their medical doctor (Orthopedist, Family Practitioner or Internist).

Osteoarthritis is the result of stress acting on the joint surfaces. The structures that help dissipate the stress on the joints (articular cartilage and fibrocartilage) wear away, decreasing the joint surface. This results in joint pain, inflammation, stiffness and decreased function.

Causes of DJD:

  • repetitive and acute injury to the joint
  • health factors that create added stress to the joint (overweight/obesity)
  • secondary factors that increase inflammation (diet).

Common complaints that I see at Bauer PT include:

  • I injured my knee when I played sports as a kid. Nothing much was done about it and over the years I continued to do sports on the weekend. Occasionally, I would experience some catching. My knee would swell for a few weeks. Now I am unable to bend and straighten my knee all the way. Now the activities that I like to do for exercise, like running and skiing, only cause pain.
  • I use to exercise a lot, but when I started a family it seemed like I worked more. My busy schedule did not allow me the time to exercise, and I put on about 30 to 40 pounds. Now when I go out to play with the kids, or play golf, my back will get stiff for a week or two. On occasion the pain even goes down the leg.

In the first scenario the individual experienced an injury in their youth that either initiated some stress to the joint structures, or there was some type of ligamentous injury. I refer to this as the “Well Spent Youth Syndrome”. The articular surfaces will wear away over time. There is gradual limitation of joint mobility and decreased function. Often the individual has remained active, participating in sports, fitness or other outdoor activities. This individual is now unable to run, jump or squat. The result is an overall change in capacity to do the things they enjoy.

In the second scenario the individual has experienced a gradual decline of activity. They have not balanced their work commitment with their fitness. Occupational demands can place repetitive stress on disc or joint structures of the spine. Postural stress can limit strength and mobility of the spine. Increased body weight can also contribute to increased loads on spinal structures. Participating in activities on occasion creates a “too much, too soon, with too little preparation” effect.  These stresses accumulate to the point where pain becomes chronic, and dys-ability ensues.

What I am seeing in my Physical Therapy practice (Bauer PT) are the results of a lifetime of events that accumulate like the straws on a camel’s back.  Our youth is catching up to us and tapping our shoulder, knee or back, and it does not feel good. Joint replacement surgeries are occurring at a younger age. Arthroscopic procedures to “clean-up” joints or trim away bone spurs are relieving our symptoms. These surgical procedures can help to relieve pain, but there is much that can be done to keep our body moving, restore activity, and maintain our well-being.

1. Learn self-management strategies that include body mechanics and postural relief strategies, and activity modification.

2. Learn how an individualized exercise program can be developed to maximize mobility, ability and balance for your pursuits.

3. Implement a complete wellness program to achieve healthy body weight, improve eating habits, and manage the stressors that impact our health.

4. Most importantly, do something everyday for yourself. Otherwise, somebody is going to have to do it for you. This requires commitment to change.

Medicine will continue to develop improved strategies, procedures and devices to help with the effects of degenerative joint disease. In the mean time, we must learn to listen to the messages that our body is giving us and take care of the body we have. This is a beginning solution to degenerative joint disease.

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