Degenerative Joints

What are degenerative joints?
We frequently have patients say “Well yes, I have pain but my doctor says I have arthritis or my doctor says I have degenerative discs.” A statement which would seem to imply that the degeneration is the cause of the pain.

The real question of degenerative joint disease is not so much is the joint degenerating (the presence or absence of degeneration is relatively easy to see on plain film x-ray) but is really more a matter of why is the joint degenerating? Some studies have shown us that many people with severe joint pain have no signs of degeneration. Other studies have shown us that only about half of the people who have visible signs of joint degeneration (such as osteoarthritis, or disc thinning) have pain along with their condition. So it would seem that degeneration per se is not necessarily the source of pain. In regard to disc degeneration, and in particular bulging discs, we find that roughly half of the general population that have never had back pain do have bulging discs. Again, this would seem to indicate that degeneration, thinning or bulging of the discs is not necessarily the source of pain. What these facts do seem to show us is that pain may coexist in a joint whether or not degeneration is present. A reasonable conclusion to be reached from all of this data is that joint pain needs to be considered and/or treated independently of degeneration. And that conclusion, in turn, can lead us to the hypothesis that pain and degeneration may well be two different representations of the same root cause, that being joint dysfunction.

The complexity of this issue seems to be this, joint instability tends to cause pain by stimulating the pain receptors of the nervous system. Joint instability also causes joint inflammation which, if persistent for long enough, results in deposition of calcium and ultimately joint fusion (the degenerative process). A fused joint is no longer unstable and no long painful (of course it is also no longer a joint). So it would seem that both pain and degeneration are normal physiological responses to instability, which are ultimately intended to effect remedying of the condition. However, we think rehab is better.

If you have more questions regarding your specific problem call our office at (780) 963-4608 to set up a consultation with Dr. McLeod.
This information represents only a brief summary of the conditions discussed and is presented as a public service by the Immanuel Healing Centre. For this or any other health problems about which you have concerns please consult personally with a health care professional.