Degenerative joint disease (DJD) is a frequent cause of pain and mobility problems. But there is much confusion about the nature of DJD, causes of this problem, and treatment options. Here is some basic information about DJD and what you can do if this condition is the source of your pain.
A Disease Constellation
DJD is not a single disease. Rather, DJD represents a variety of conditions that affect the joints. The most frequently-seen conditions that make up DJD are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and posttraumatic arthritis.
Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage between bones begins to wear down. Cartilage serves as “padding,” preventing your bones from grinding against each other. Over time, osteoarthritis can become so severe that virtually all cartilage has disappeared from a joint. This is called “bone-on-bone” osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis may occur in any joint and is frequently seen in the knees. Conservative treatments, like chiropractic therapy, can help with the pain and stiffness, but there is no way to restore lost cartilage. Many people with osteoarthritis will eventually need joint replacement surgery.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disorder. In other words, your immune system treats your own joint tissue as an invader, attacking it. Immunosuppressant drugs are sometimes prescribed to treat the root cause of RA, but non-invasive treatments often work well in controlling the painful symptoms like sore and swollen joints. Chiropractic care is uniquely suited to RA as the gentle treatments help with pain without aggravating the condition.
Repetitive stress can contribute to osteoarthritis, but posttraumatic arthritis occurs after a major injury, such as a displaced bone fracture. Even after the initial injury heals, you may be left with a painful joint or experience limited range of motion. Chiropractic treatments, along with other care like physical therapy, can be invaluable for gently encouraging range of motion and mitigating pain. In time, patients with posttraumatic arthritis often find their mobility largely restored.
If you’ve been diagnosed with DJD or arthritis, you should know that you have treatment options. Contact your chiropractor for an evaluation and see what they have to offer.