What is the degeneration of bones?

Although the name does not mention it, bones also suffer from osteoarthritis. This is one of the most common rheumatic diseases that mainly affects people of a mature age (+60), more often women than men. Degenerative changes usually include hips and knees, sometimes also spine, feet and hands. The consequence of this chronic disease is disability, the degree of which depends on the moment of treatment and the patient’s own treatment. How does bone degeneration arise and can this process be inhibited?

Causes of degenerative changes

Degenerative disease is the effect of gradual wear of joints with age. Even so, not every pensioner suffers from nuisance symptoms of this condition, why? Well, for degenerative changes you have to “earn”. All mechanical injuries, injuries, frostbite, joint infections, bad training habits, work in the position that overloads the joints, overload caused by weight lifting and overweight – all this gradually leads to the degeneration of the movement system. Other diseases (diabetes, metabolic disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, gout) and genetic factors also have a large impact on the development of degenerative disease. However, consumption of joints is to some extent a natural process that results from the loosening of the internal structure of the articular cartilage. Bone degeneration is a common condition of old age – which of course does not mean that specialist treatment can be dispensed with.

How does osteoarthritis change in the bones?

Osteoarthritis is progressing slowly but inevitably – no drug has been invented so far that it would be able to reverse disease changes and effectively inhibit degenerative processes. Degeneration consists in gradual deterioration of the articular cartilage, i.e. the connective tissue layer, which covers the surface of immediately adjoining bones. Regeneration of damaged tissue is impossible due to disturbances in the production of proteins (proteoglycans), which are the building components of cartilage. As the disease develops, the tissue undergoes fibrosis and then local cracks. Damaged cartilage is gradually wiped off, resulting in the exposure of joint surfaces. The bony roots begin to rub against each other, making them rough and painful. In the course of the disease, inflammation of the synovium and fibrosis of the old capsule also occur. Bone degeneration can be easily recognized by X-ray examination after the presence of bone growth, the so-called osteophytes.

Symptoms of degenerative disease

The bone roots rubbed against each other cause pain when moving, which is the main symptom of degenerative disease. Another typical ailment is the morning stiffness of joints (characteristic of rheumatic diseases), caused by prolonged immobility. Bone degeneration can also be “heard” – the patient attempting to start stiffening is accompanied by the sound of crackling in the bones. In the course of the disease there is also an inflammation, which is manifested by joint pain, swelling and skin warming at the site of the affected joint. During the palpation examination, you can find the presence of painless nodules, with time more serious deformities of the joints may occur. At an advanced stage of the disease, bones are placed against each other at unnatural angles, and the patient has to deal with increasing disability.

Treatment of degeneration of joints and bones

The degenerative disease has a chronic and progressive character, so far it has not been possible to invent a miraculous way to cure it. The goal of therapy is to relieve ailments and to keep the patient as healthy as possible. Treatment requires a combination of many different methods:

  • pharmacological use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, glucocorticosteroids, analgesics, drugs supporting the regeneration of articular cartilage and preparations of hyaluronic acid
  • physiotherapy treatments, such as: cryotherapy, laser therapy, electrotherapy, ultrasound therapy, diathermy
  • movement rehabilitation, that is, resistance, isometric and improving the condition
  • manual therapy
  • pating (kinesiotaping)
  • unloading joints with balls, stabilizers, sticks, bands

Advanced degeneration of bones and joints may also require surgery, i.e. cleaning the joints from the diseased synovial membrane (synovectomy) or artificial joint replacement (arthroplasty). The treatments are aimed at eliminating pain and restoring the basic functions in the joint.