Degenerative joint disease, also known as osteoarthritis, is a type of arthritis that is caused by the inflammation, breakdown and loss of cartilage in the joints. Degenerative joint disease, or osteoarthritis, affects all areas of the body, including the hips, hands, knees, back, shoulders and more. Here, we will examine the knees and shoulders.
Osteoarthritis symptoms typically develop slowly and can get worse with time. Some of the common symptoms of osteoarthritis in the knees and shoulders include:
- Pain in the joints, especially after bending or lifting
- A tender feeling when pressure is applied to the knee or shoulder joint
- Stiffness, especially in the morning after sleeping all night or after a period of inactivity
- Loss of flexibility, especially lifting overhead and crouching down
- Grating or grinding sensation when you move with the joint
Degenerative joint disease is caused by a number of factors, including:
- genetics – having a family member with the same condition
- an injury to the area, such as a torn ligament, meniscus or rotator cuff
- poor nutrition, specifically with vitamin D and calcium
- a mal-alignment of the legs or feet, such as pigeon toes or knock-knees
How to treat degenerative joint disease in the knees and shoulders
Thankfully you don’t have to suffer with osteoarthritis, as there are many options out there to help ease those aches and pains. Some examples of these options are:
- Make a change in your lifestyle: In other words, slow down and take it easy! If you’re active, you might want to listen to your body and be gentler on yourself. For people with degenerative knee joints, running and high impact activities are not going to help the pain. Instead, go for activities such as yoga and swimming, which are excellent and low-impact for your joints.
- Physiotherapy: Gentle programs that move and stretch the joints can help with stiffness and to rebuild the stabilizing muscles around the joint. Don’t forget to practice these stretching exercises when you are at home as well.
- Weight loss: Although it seems daunting and challenging, losing a few pounds can help you in so many ways. By losing as little as 5 to 15 pounds, you can greatly reduce the strain on your knees and body. Plus, you’ll likely feel better about yourself!
- Knee Braces: There are the simple neoprene sleeve-style braces or the more complex types of braces made of plastic and other materials out there. Either way, they may help reduce pain by shifting your weight away from the damaged portion of your knee.
- Injections: Getting cortisone or a steroid injection can assist with the inflammation associated with a degenerative joint disease. The results are usually significant, with pain reduction lasting up to a few months. Make sure you check with your doctor before you get this type of treatment, though, as steroid injections can often interact with certain other types of medications.
- Supplements: There is some positive research today that shows certain supplements will aid in reducing the inflammation of degenerative conditions. For example, vitamin D has been shown to assist in preventing osteoarthritis. Fish oils are a great choice too, as they contain chemicals that mimic aspirin. Astaxanthin, which is a strong anti-inflammatory, may help. Finally, the supplement glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate can be effective. Keep in mind that it does not grow new cartilage, but rather keeps the existing cartilage healthy.
- Surgery: Arthroscopy or knee replacement surgery are usually last-resort treatments for osteoarthritis, usually because the results are limited and the research shows that it doesn’t help much with degenerative diseases. As for a knee replacement, it can be a great solution, but is a huge undertaking – you have to prepare for a major surgery, and be ready for the long road of rehabilitation after the surgery. If you are embarking on knee replacement surgery, ensure that you are using a reputable orthopedic surgeon that has experience with knee replacements.
- Orthobiologics: Treatments can range from PRP Injections to stem cell therapy. Orthobiologics is a combination of biology and biochemistry used to regenerate bone and soft tissue. Your natural healing capacity is stimulated using growth factors and/or stem cells that come from your body. The real goal of orthobiologics is to trigger the body into healing itself.
Degenerative joint diseases can be disruptive, painful and inconvenient. Thankfully, with new research, technology and self-care, you can still live a health and active lifestyle, despite the discomfort you may feel in your knees or shoulders.