An Inside Look into Bone-on-Bone in Joints

“They” say X-rays showing “bone-on-bone” pathology, or “arthritic build-ups” are proof of need for surgery, or at very least drugs … BUT IS THAT NECESSARILY TRUE?

It might sometimes be true, but before you make any irreversible or regrettable decisions …


First, It is important to have a better picture of what’s going on.

One thing that has been reported in medical literature for several decades now is that in MANY CASES, people with LOTS of joint degeneration have NO PAIN. Conversely, many people with NO joint degeneration have LOTS of pain. This well reported fact makes it very difficult to reliably claim that degeneration of the joint surfaces, even completely herniated spinal discs, is necessarily the cause of pain.

If it can be seen on X-ray or MRI that a piece of the joint material is actually pressing against a nerve, then that is possibly the cause of pain. But in many cases there is NO such evidence, even with a lot of complete degeneration.

And discussed further below, there are very few or no pain sensitive nerves INSIDE OF  the joints. So if the pain sensitive nerves are OUTSIDE of the joint, and the joint surfaces cannot compress or otherwise irritate the pain sensitive nerves, then how does joint degeneration cause pain?

So, if it cannot be reliably stated that the joint degeneration is the direct cause of pain, what IS the cause of pain? Is it something else besides the degeneration? … We’ll get to that…

Second, It is important to ask the right questions. For example, if you have X-ray or MRI evidence of actual bone-on-bone pressure within the joint in question, you should ask … WHY is that happening in the first place?

WHY is this joint “bone-on-bone”? … WHAT is causing that problem?

And NO, “old age” is not an adequate or intelligent answer. In fact, that answer reveals very low levels of understanding of how the body actually works in the long-term of your life. Yet the solution only requires a minimum level of knowledge of the anatomy and kinesiology of the musculoskeletal system, and some very basic physics.

Anatomy is a description of the shape and location of muscles.

Kinesiology is the description of what happens to bones and other tissues when a muscle contacts or relaxes.

Basic Physics allows you to see the effects of movements and pressures caused by the muscles acting upon bones & joints. The forces of gravity play a big part in such phenomena.

WHAT Pressurizes Your Joints?

There is one VERY common, and primary reason, to have a loss of space, too much pressure, or degeneration in one or more of your joints. That is, the muscles crossing that joint have chronically over-shortened, and have squeezed much of the water and space out of the joint capsule.

increased compression of Joint leads to joint degeneration

Increased Compression of Joint Leads to Joint Degeneration

As you can see in the above illustration, if both muscles of the pair (A and B) have chronically over-shortened, there is NO CHOICE but for the bones to be pulled closer to each other. The more tension & shortening in those muscles, the closer the bones get to each other. That is basic physics.

This puts increasing amounts of pressure on the joint capsule, containing synovial fluid. This fluid, mostly water, is the lubricating and shock-absorbing material between the joint surfaces.

The loss of water also means the synovial fluid is dissipating, or is mostly gone. When that happens, your joint surfaces will start rubbing against each other, and the friction will start breaking the surfaces down. That directly produces osteoarthritis.

If the increasing pressure from chronic muscle tension is allowed to go on long enough, many of the tissues surrounding the joint will start to break down as well.

Is Surgery REALLY Necessary?

Well, even if the joint surfaces have degenerated, that MIGHT merit some kind of invasive intervention. If you are an athlete, or in some kind of work in which you put extreme pressures, stresses or strains, or velocities, on the joints, that might be warranted.

However, most physicians will say that if you are not in significant pain, and you have adequate range-of-motion to accomplish the tasks of your daily life, then surgery is not generally necessary.

The question is, what is the best way to relieve the pain, and regain adequate range-of-motion?

WHAT Is Causing The Pain?

In many cases, the cause of the pain is NOT the bone-on-bone contact. In fact, it is well established that there are VERY few “pain sensitive”* nerve endings WITHIN the various joints of the body or spinal discs.

It is also true that contracted muscles will resist lengthening, and will not allow full range of motion. Over-shortened muscles also cannot deliver their full force, nor move across a full distance, even if they are still “fundamentally strong.” This is a problem of Active or Passive Insufficiency, described elsewhere on this website.

* Technically speaking, “pain sensitive” nerves are actually called “nociceptive” nerves, because the signal in the nerve does not get translated into a “pain sensation” util it arrives in the brain.

WHAT Is The Solution?

If muscles are chronically contracted & shortened, and they are putting offending pressures on the joints, would it not make sense to START with SUBSTANTIALLY REDUCING the chronic and excess tensions in the muscle/tendon units causing those contractions and shortenings in the first place?

If that makes sense to you, why not start by using the available and TOTALLY NON-INVASIVE techniques of getting those muscles to Let-Go of — or RELAX or DE-CONTRACT — their tensions? … Does that NOT make sense?

THEN, if you’ve actually removed the original cause of the joint degeneration, and you still have pain, you have a FAR clearer idea of what your are really dealing with.

(YES, it’s true, there is a more primary cause as to why you’ve accumulated those chronic tensions in the first place, and we’ll get to that on another page. But the direct cause of the joint compression itself is the muscles tension, or what I’ve been calling C.E.M.&.N.T.)


My preferred tools, and what I used to relive my musculoskeletal problems, were:

  • Physical/Mental Yoga … utilizing Homeopathic Doses of stretch with Long Holds
  • Hands-On, Yoga-based Bodywork Techniques … also of Lower Intensity Pressure with Long Holds
  • BIO-Structural Balancing & Postural Alignment … for determining Which Muscles, and in what Sequence

Dr. John Sarno, M.D., On Excess Muscle Tension

Here is Dr. John Sarno, a medical doctor with a high percentage success rate in reducing or eliminating pain from so-called “structural degeneration”:



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David Scott Lynn (DSL)

DSL the Yogi at Whole Life Perspectives
Beginning at 13 years of age, DSL's been involved with alternative philosophies & practices most of his life. Becoming a yoga teacher in 1976, then a hands-on bodyworker in 1981, he developed a unique & highly effective form of Yoga / Bodywork / Whole Health Fitness & Therapeutics. … David wrote the chapters on a wholistic philosophy & physiology of bodywork & stretching for the textbook Structural Balancing, published by McGraw-Hill, Inc. in 2010. … He is the author of Simple Steps to Let-Go Yoga, available at: … Several other e-books and e-courses are soon forthcoming at … David consults with Kyle C. Wright on massage school development at the Schools of Advanced Bodywork at .
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