What Is Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD)?

man experiences pain due to stiffness and degenerative joint disease

Degenerative joint disease (DJD) is a common condition that affects tens of millions of people worldwide, particularly as they age. This same condition has another popular name you may be more familiar with… osteoarthritis.

What Is degenerative joint disease?

This progressive disease occurs when the protective cartilage that cushions the joints breaks down, leading to pain, stiffness, and limited mobility. While degenerative joint disease can affect any joint in the body, it is most commonly seen in the knees, which bear the weight and stress of everyday activities.

Cartilage acts as a cushion, enabling smooth movement and reducing bone friction. As this cartilage deteriorates, the bones rub against each other, causing pain, swelling, and stiffness. While the exact cause of degenerative joint disease is unknown, aging, genetics, previous injuries, and obesity are often contributing factors.

As previously mentioned, this disease is also known as Osteoarthritis. It is the most common form of arthritis, affecting millions of people worldwide and more than 32 million people within the United States. It typically develops slowly over time, starting with mild symptoms that worsen as the condition progresses. While it commonly affects weight-bearing joints such as the knees, hips, and spine, it can also occur in the hands, wrists, and shoulders.

One key characteristic of degenerative joint disease is the formation of bone spurs, also known as osteophytes, around the affected joint. These bony growths develop in an attempt to stabilize the joint and compensate for the lost cartilage. However, they can also contribute to pain and a limited range of motion in the joint.

osteoarthritis in the knee picture and diagram

What does DJD medical abbreviation stand for?

You may have realized it already, but DJD is an acronym for degenerative joint disease. Medical professionals often use abbreviations to streamline communication and documentation, allowing for quicker and more efficient information sharing.

How does degenerative joint disease affect knees?

When degenerative joint disease affects the knees, it can have a significant impact on a person’s daily life. The knees endure constant stress due to activities such as walking, standing, and climbing stairs.

Over time, the cartilage in the knee joints wears away, causing pain, inflammation, and decreased range of motion. Simple tasks such as bending or getting up from a chair can become excruciatingly painful. Moreover, changes in the knee structure, such as the formation of bone spurs, may further exacerbate discomfort.

Individuals with degenerative joint disease often experience morning stiffness and find that their symptoms worsen after prolonged periods of inactivity. As the disease progresses, the pain can become chronic and affect one’s ability to engage in physical activities and maintain an active lifestyle.

At AKPC, we published an infographic, “Why Delay Treatment,” that dives into this further. But the most important thing for you to know now is that you don’t have to suffer daily anymore. Treatment options are available.

Fortunately, there are non-surgical methods available to manage knee pain associated with degenerative joint disease. It is essential to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the best course of action based on individual needs and medical history. Common approaches to pain management include:

  1. Medications: Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help reduce pain and inflammation. Prescription medications, such as corticosteroids or hyaluronic acid injections, may also be recommended in more severe cases.
  2. Physical therapy: Gentle exercises, stretching, and strengthening routines can help improve joint stability and flexibility. A physical therapist can create a personalized program to target specific areas of concern and provide guidance on proper technique.
  3. Weight management: Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial for reducing stress on the knees. Losing even a small amount of weight can make a significant difference in relieving discomfort and slowing down the progression of degenerative joint disease.
  4. Assistive devices: Using walking aids, such as canes or crutches, can provide support and help alleviate pressure on the knees. Additionally, arthritis knee braces or insoles may provide additional stability and reduce pain.
  5. Hot and cold therapy: Applying heat or cold to the affected knee can help reduce inflammation and relieve pain. Hot packs or warm baths can improve blood circulation, while cold packs or ice massages can numb the area and diminish swelling.

Managing Pain Associated with Degenerative Joint Disease

Living with degenerative joint disease requires a comprehensive approach to pain management. In addition to medical interventions, individuals can implement various self-care strategies to minimize discomfort and enhance quality of life.

Engaging in low-impact exercises, such as swimming or cycling, can help strengthen the muscles surrounding the knees without putting excessive strain on the joints. Regular exercise can improve joint stability, promote weight loss, and enhance overall physical well-being.

Exercising when you’re already having pain may seem counterintuitive, but it’s the key that keeps things from worsening.

Furthermore, adopting a healthy and balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins has been shown to reduce inflammation and support joint health. Incorporating omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, nuts, and seeds can also provide anti-inflammatory benefits and potentially alleviate knee pain. Don’t like to eat any of that stuff? Try our Fish Oil Supplement.

Stress management techniques, such as mindfulness meditation and deep breathing exercises, may also be beneficial for individuals with degenerative joint disease. Stress can contribute to increased pain perception and muscle tension, so finding ways to relax and de-stress can positively impact overall well-being.

So, let’s do a quick review. Degenerative joint disease is a condition that primarily affects the knees, and is also called osteoarthritis. It leads to pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility. While it is a common occurrence as you age, there exist several non-surgical approaches to managing knee pain.

If you’re struggling with the discomfort and limitations of degenerative joint disease in your knees, you don’t have to settle for a life of pain and immobility. At the Arthritis Knee Pain Centers, we specialize in advanced knee pain relief treatment that is designed to increase mobility, reduce pain, delay surgery, and decrease the need for pain medications — all without surgery or opioids.

Join the 50,000+ patients who have experienced relief from osteoarthritis knee pain through our innovative approach, including FDA-approved viscosupplementation gel injections, guided by advanced digital imaging. Take the first step towards reclaiming your mobility and improving your quality of life. Schedule Your No-Charge Screening today and discover how our treatments can help you live better with degenerative joint disease.