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What is Degenerative Joint Disease and What Does It Mean For Me?

Degenerative joint disease (DJD), interchangeable with osteoarthritis (OA), is the most common arthritis worldwide. Commonly referred to as “wear and tear” arthritis, degenerative joint disease usually develops slowly over time, so in most cases there is not a specific injury that triggers the disease. OA causes progressive structural damage to the entire joint, although it is usually the cartilage where the earliest changes are seen. DJD can wear away cartilage, alter bone shape and cause inflammation, leading to pain, stiffness and reduced movement of the joint. The most commonly affected joints are the hips, knees, hands and spine. A common misconception is that we all inevitably develop osteoarthritis, and while it is true that age is a common risk factor for developing osteoarthritis, it is not the only cause for developing the disease. Risk factors for developing degenerative joint disease can be separated into modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors Non-modifiable:

  • Age

  • Joint injury: such as bone fracture, cartilage or ligament tear

  • Musculoskeletal abnormalities: poor alignment of joints can contribute to development of DJD

  • Genetics: having a family member with the condition are more likely to develop OA

  • Gender: women are more likely to develop DJD as compared to men


  • Weak muscles: without the proper support by surrounding muscles, joints can become poorly aligned

  • Obesity: increases load placed onto joints. The excess of fat cells also promotes inflammation

  • Overuse: using the same joints in a repetitive manner in the workplace or recreationally such as in sport.

  • Diet

How Can Chiropractic Help? Unfortunately there is no rewind button, or cure for osteoarthritis, however there are things that can be done to manage the condition to reduce pain levels and maintain function. 1. Exercise

The list of positive outcomes from exercising regularly seems never ending, to name a few - managing and preventing cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes, improving mood and mental function. Sounds too good to be true, right? Well as it turns out, this free, disease fighting, health building remedy is also incredibly helpful in managing and slowing down the progression of DJD. Strengthening exercises build muscle, developing stability and support around painful joints. Stronger muscles improve mobility and decrease stiffness in affected joints, and as an added bonus, help us with balance - reducing the risk of falls in our older years. If you are unsure of where to get started, check out our personalised exercise programs on our services page (you’ll need to scroll down).

2. Maintain healthy weight

Being overweight has been shown to increase loading and stress on joints and speeds up degeneration. Exercising regularly and eating a well balanced diet are key for slowing down progression and maintaining quality of life.

3. Get adjusted

Since loading joints repeatedly in the workplace or sport can result in the development of OA, it makes sense that we look after our musculoskeletal health so our bodies can adapt and cope with the repetitive stressors in life. Our Gisborne chiropractors can assist with their knowledge of your biomechanics (how your muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones work together in movement) to promote optimal function and reduce excessive loading on joints. Soft tissue therapies such as massage, theragun, dry needling and TENS machine can assist with local muscle hypertonicity and pain, while chiropractic low force adjustments / mobilisations assist with dysfunctional movement patterns, joint mobility/function and improved proprioception (our unconscious awareness of where our body is in space) - important as the link between OA balance/mobility can lead to an increase of fall risk.

4. Eat a Mediterranean style diet

Managing inflammation is a key component in reducing pains associated with OA. By limiting pro-inflammatory foods such as red meat, sugar and most dairy and eating more anti-inflammatory foods such as leafy greens, vegetables, healthy fats and fish we can not only reduce symptoms of OA, but also might help to slow down the progression of the disease. Not to mention the mediterranean diet is well known for other awesome health benefits.

So if you have been told you have osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease, know that there are many options out there to help reduce your pain levels, slow disease progression and maintain function to keep you doing the things you love.

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