What is Degenerative Arthritis? Dr. Jennifer Stevens

degenerative arthritis

Degenerative arthritis is really osteoarthritis. It’s a form of joint disease where you have wear and tear that accumulates as you get older. So it’s a much more common disease as you age. 

If you’ve had an injury, for example, in a hip or knee, it makes it more likely that you’ll get degenerative osteoarthritis earlier in life. So for example, your other joints might be okay but you find that you’re needing a hip replacement at the age of 55. If you can stay active, not put on too much weight, then you reduce your chances of having severe enough arthritis that you might need, for example, a joint replacement, or that you wind up with longterm osteoarthritis in your back. I

If you do have osteoarthritis, particularly if your knees, it’s been well shown that losing up to about 10% of your body weight and just engaging in physical activity every day can reduce your pain, increase your muscle, sometimes help you put off or even avoid having a joint replacement. Degenerative arthritis in the back or again osteoarthritis of the back is very common. If you take X-rays or scans of the backs of people over the age of 50, it’s very rare not to see changes associated with osteoarthritis of the back. However, that doesn’t mean that everybody needs an operation or has back pain all the time. 

There’s not a very clear relationship between what your back looks like on an X-ray and how much pain or disability you have. It can be very variable. And that’s one of the reasons why investigating osteoarthritis of your back with X-rays or scans cannot be very useful all the time.

Dr Jennifer Stevens is a Pain Specialist at St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney and Pain Australia

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