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What is Spinal Arthritis?


There are several types of spinal arthritis that affect the bones and joints of the spine. Spinal arthritis can develop anywhere along the spine, but most commonly affects the lumbar spine (lower back) and the cervical spine (neck) because of the amount of use and weight supported.

The most common type of spinal arthritis is osteoarthritis, which is also referred to as degenerative arthritis. Osteoarthritis is characterized by the deterioration of the cartilage that covers the spine’s facet joints, leading to bone spurs that can cause pain, stiffness, and other symptoms. Ankylosing spondylitis is another common form of arthritis of the spine, often affecting the hip and sacroiliac joints. Rheumatoid arthritis, which tends to affect the hands, hips, and knees, can also affect the facet joints in the spine and lead to a spinal condition called spondylolisthesis in which a vertebra slips forward over the vertebra below it.

Spinal arthritis can produce pain and inflammation, along with other chronic symptoms. Many people can manage the symptoms of spinal arthritis using a combination of nonsurgical treatments such as exercise and over-the-counter pain medication. Severe spinal arthritis symptoms that are not relieved with these may require surgery.

BPC has helped thousands of patients find relief from debilitating neck and back pain caused by arthritis and other spine conditions. If you’re ready to take the next step, give us a call at [sc name=”patient_phone_number_dash”] to learn more about our cutting-edge minimally invasive procedures.

How Arthritis of the Spine can impact your life

Spinal Arthritis Causes and Risk Factors

The most common types of spinal arthritis are caused by the breakdown of cartilage over the spine’s facet joints that occur as we age. This deterioration can lead to other spinal conditions, such as bone spurs and stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spine.

Along with aging, the risk of developing arthritis of the spine is increased by the following:

  • Being overweight – The more you weigh, the more stress you’re placing on your spine and the facet joints, which can cause the cartilage to breakdown faster.
  • Your gender – Though anyone can develop arthritis of the spine, it is most common in post-menopausal women.
  • Certain diseases – Diabetes, gout, and certain infections increase the risk of spinal arthritis.
  • Family history – Your risk of spinal arthritis is higher if someone in your family has had osteoarthritis.
  • Previous injury – Sustaining a spinal injury increases your risk of spinal arthritis.
  • Repetitive movements – Occupations or activities that involve repetitive stress on the spine increases the risk of arthritis and other spine problems.

Spinal Arthritis Symptoms

The symptoms of spinal arthritis tend to be worse when you get up in the morning or after periods of inactivity. Neck or low back pain are the most common spinal arthritis symptoms and often the first symptoms experienced.

Other spinal arthritis symptoms include:

  • Pain that is worse when standing for long periods
  • Stiffness
  • Tenderness over the affected joints
  • Decreased flexibility and range of motion

If bone spurs develop and press against the spinal cord or nerve you may also experience pain, tingling, numbness, and weakness that extends to the extremities.

Suffering from Spondylosis

Spinal Arthritis Treatment

A combination of conservative treatment for spinal arthritis is recommended to manage your symptoms for as long as possible. These include:

  • Over-the-counter (OTC) medication – OTC pain medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), may relieve mild to moderate pain and inflammation.
  • Heat and cold – Applying heat or cold may help with the pain and inflammation caused by spinal arthritis.
  • Physical therapy and low-impact exercise – Exercise can help relieve stiffness and improve your range of motion. Low-impact exercise is recommended to protect the joints.
  • Weight management – Getting to a healthy weight can relieve stress from your spine and joints.
  • Prescription pain medication – Stronger pain medication, such as narcotics, may be prescribed for especially painful episodes. These are not recommended for long-term use because of side effects and their tendency to be habit-forming.
  • Steroid injections – Corticosteroid medication injected directly into the facet joint for temporary relief of moderate to severe pain.

In severe spinal arthritis or when conservative treatment options fail to provide sufficient relief of your spinal arthritis symptoms, surgery should be considered. There are different surgical procedures that can be used in treatment for spinal arthritis, including minimally invasive outpatient procedures to remove bone spurs and decompress nerves. The options for the surgical treatment of spinal arthritis include:

Unlike traditional open spine surgery, minimally invasive spine surgery requires only a 1-inch incision and doesn’t disrupt the muscles or surrounding tissues. This results in a faster recovery with minimal scarring or bleeding.

BPC specializes in minimally invasive spine surgery to treat spinal arthritis and many other spine conditions. More than 30,000 patients have found relief from chronic neck and back pain with our state-of-the-art treatment. If you’re ready to take the next step, call [sc name=”patient_phone_number_dash”] so we can match you with one of our expert board-certified spine specialists who can provide the treatment you deserve.

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