When you mention the term degenerative disease, it refers to the gradual deterioration of the body tissues or cells over the years due to the natural aging process.
As we age, our spine starts giving in to the stress of providing flexibility and support to our back. The components of the spine start deteriorating slowly, and you will experience back pain and stiffness in the spine.
This could mean two things. You are either suffering from degenerative disc disease or degenerative joint disease. It can get quite confusing when it comes to distinguishing between the degenerative disc and joint diseases as they both are spinal conditions and are degenerative in nature.
Fortunately, both degenerative disc and joint diseases have some distinct characteristics features that will help you distinguish them from each other. Read this article further to know more about the degenerative disc and joint disease and how to identify the correct disease you are suffering from.
Degenerative Disc Disease
The spinal column consists of spinal discs that perform the task of providing padding between the vertebrae, i.e., the series of small bones that make up our backbone. They also act as shock absorbers and help the back remain flexible. As we age, these discs start gradually losing their elasticity property.
In most cases, the person comes to know of this only after the pain in the lower back becomes unbearable.
A common cause of this condition is the drying of your spinal discs. As you age, the water in the spinal discs dries out, flattening the spinal disc. A flattened spinal disc cannot absorb shock and they fail to provide padding to the vertebrae. Another cause of this disease can be a crack in the spinal disc. If the walls of the disc tear out, then there is a high chance that the soft core of the disc might push through the cracks and cause the disc to swell or, in the worst case, slip off.
Degenerative Joint Disease
Commonly referred to as Osteoarthritis, the degenerative joint disease is caused by the wearing of the body tissues. One of the most commonly affected areas is the joints in the spine.
This disease affects the facet joints, which are the joints that protect the vertebra in the spinal column from both sides. These joints make it possible for the spine to bend effortlessly.
The facet joints are lined with cartilages that cushion the joint and make sure that two adjacent vertebrae can glide smoothly against one another.
In degenerative joint disease, the cartilages break down, causing the adjacent joints to come in direct contact. When the joints rub against each other directly, it causes inflammation and unbearable pain.
If left untreated, both degenerative disc and joint disease become worse over time. In case of degenerative disc disease, it might lead to severe permanent damage. However, in case of degenerative joint disease, both the spine and other major joints of the body can get affected.