How Serious Is Degenerative Bone Disease
Degenerative bone and joint disease, also called osteoarthritis, can be disabling in some cases and lead to serious injuries

Degenerative bone and joint disease, also called osteoarthritis, can be disabling in some cases. Osteoarthritis of the spine or spondylosis can cause sudden dizziness when standing, which can lead to serious head injuries and fractures

While osteoarthritis is very common, it most often affects the elderly population as wear and tear on the joints increases with age.

What causes degenerative bone and joint disease?

Osteoarthritis occurs most frequently in the hands, knees, and hips. The ends of the bones in a joint are cushioned by articular cartilage, which allows ones to move against each other without friction and protects joints from stress

Although some amount of wear and tear is normal, changes due to age can impair the body’s ability to repair itself and result in pain and stiffness as the cartilage surrounding the joints get thinner and rougher.

What are the symptoms of degenerative bone and joint disease?


  • Pain 
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Decreased flexibility

Osteoarthritis of the knee

  • Pain:
    • Only affects the knee (one or both)
    • Worsens at the end of the day or with movement and improves with rest
    • Felt all around the knee or just in certain places (such as the front and sides of the knee)
    • Disturbs sleep
  • Stiffness of joint in the morning but that not usually last more than half an hour
  • Creaking or crunching with the movement of the joint
  • Swelling:
    • Hard swelling: When the bone at the edge of the joint grows outward, forming bony spurs called osteophytes.
    • Soft swelling: When the joint becomes inflamed and produces extra fluid, sometimes called effusion or water on the knee.
  • Instability due to weak thigh muscles and thinner legs
  • Disturbed sleep

Osteoarthritis of the spine

  • Lumbar spondylosis: Lumbar spondylosis affects the lower back vertebrae. In addition to pain, stiffness, and limited range of movements, nerve and arterial compression-related symptoms of tingling, numbness, and weakness in both legs may occur.
  • Cervical spondylosis: Cervical spondylosis affects the vertebrae of the neck. In addition to pain, stiffness, and limited range of movements, nerve and arterial compression-related symptoms, such as tingling, numbness, and weakness in both arms and hands, sudden dizziness, uncoordinated walking, and loss of bladder or bowel control may be seen.


What joints are most often affected by osteoarthritis? See Answer

What are the complications of degenerative bone and joint disease?

  • Baker’s cyst or popliteal cyst: Occurs when part of the joint lining bulges through a small tear in the joint capsule. This can then cause joint fluid to be trapped in the bulge. While not always painful, the cyst can sometimes burst and cause fluid to leak down into the calf, causing sharp pain, swelling, and redness in the leg.
  • Heberden nodes: Bony humps in the joints of fingers closer to the fingernails in osteoarthritis.
  • Bouchard nodes: Bony humps in the middle joint of the finger in osteoarthritis.
  • Abnormal walk: Osteoarthritis of the knee, leading to bowing of the lower limbs and abnormal walk. This can affect posture and makes other joints vulnerable to osteoarthritis.
  • Frozen joint: No movement in the affected joint with severe stages of osteoarthritis. 
  • Fractures and cerebrovascular accidents: Seen in spinal osteoarthritis with an unstable walk or sudden dizziness, which can lead to fractures and head injuries and cause permanent disability or death.

What are the risk factors of degenerative bone and joint disease?

Factors can increase a person’s risk of developing the condition include:

  • Injury or overuse: Repetitive movements that cause stress on a joint increase the risk
  • Age: Over age 60 are more vulnerable to the condition
  • Gender: Women are more likely to develop osteoarthritis than men, especially after age 50
  • Obesity: Extra weight puts more stress on the joints, especially weight-bearing joints such as the knees, hips, and spine
  • Genetics: Family history of osteoarthritis are prone to developing the condition
  • Race: Some Asian populations have a lower risk of osteoarthritis

How are degenerative bone and joint diseases treated?

Factors that determine the treatment of degenerative bone and joint disease include:

  • Age
  • Occupation
  • Activity level
  • Overall health
  • Medical history
  • Severity of the condition

Treatment of osteoarthritis may involve:

  • Weight control: Dietary modifications and exercises to reduce weight
  • Physical therapy: Exercises to improve the muscle strength around the joint and improve joint stability
  • Cold or heat application: Applying cold or heating packs to provide temporary relief from inflammation and pain
  • Medications: Acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen for pain relief
  • Supplements: Glucosamine and chondroitin for pain relief in some cases
  • Rest: May involve avoiding certain activities that trigger joint pain
  • Supportive devices: Assistive devices such as canes to help minimize stress on the joints when walking
  • Surgery: May be required if other treatments are ineffective


Exercises for Knee Osteoarthritis and Joint Pain See Slideshow

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Medically Reviewed on 12/8/2021
Image Source: iStock Images

Lozada CJ. Osteoarthritis. Medscape.