What is Degenerative Arthritis?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 25 February 2019
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Degenerative arthritis is a chronic inflammation of the joints which can lead to disability and severe pain. This is the most common type of arthritis, occurring frequently in men over 45 and women over 55, and it also emerges in the wake of injuries to the bones and joints. There is no cure for degenerative arthritis, but a variety of techniques can be used to manage it, and to reduce its impact on the body.

This condition is also known as osteoarthritis (OA) or degenerative joint disease (DJD). It is caused by the gradual breakdown of the cartilage which normally protects the joints of the body. As the cartilage breaks down, the joint starts to wear severely, and it may become eroded with time. Bone spurs and nodules can also emerge as the body tries to cope with the inflammation. The result is a stiffened, painful joint which can be a source of disability.


The fingers, knees, hips, and spine are all common locations for arthritis to develop. The condition usually starts with low-grade pain and some mild heat around the joints, and it progresses to severe pain and stiffness. Levels of pain associated with this condition can vary depending on the time of day and the weather. Many patients, for example, experience more pain and stiffness in cold, moist climates. In some cases, the arthritis can become so severe that joints become twisted and deformed, as seen in the hands of some elderly people.

There appears to be a genetic component to degenerative arthritis, as some families seem to be more prone than others. Doctors also believe that the chances of developing this diroder can be reduced by exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, and possibly by taking supplements such as glucosamine which are intended to support joint health. Physical therapy after traumatic injuries can also reduce the risk of developing arthritis, by promoting strong, healthy joints and a full recovery.

A doctor can often diagnose degenerative arthritis simply by talking to a patient and performing a simple physical exam. Diagnostic tools such as x-rays, joint fluid analysis, and arthroscopy may be used to confirm the diagnosis, and to determine the best course of action for the patient. Medications can be used to manage the pain, along with physical therapy, and sometimes alternative medicine such as acupuncture also helps. In some instances, surgery to replace or repair severely damaged joints may be needed to deal with the disorder.


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Post 2

Please inform me about degenerative disease that has to do with the shoulder area. My concern is what is the difference between this and the rotator cuff injury?

Post 1

Unfortunately there seems to be no cure, at least not at the present time, for arthritis. A recent US government sponsored study concluded that dietary supplements do not slow down deterioration of joints, nor do they help in pain reduction. A placebo had basically the same effect.

It seems that joint cartilage deterioration is part of getting older. Some day, there might be a cure, but at the present time pain medication might help the discomfort, but there seems to be nothing out there that would prevent the loss of cartilage.

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