Osteoarthritis of the spine, which is also known as degenerative arthritis of the spine or spondylosis, is a condition found more commonly in women than men. The condition typically first begins to appear as the body ages, and cartilage between the bones of the spine’s facet joint breaks down. This degeneration of cartilage causes the roughening and loss of lubrication between the facet joints, which allows the bones of adjacent vertebrae to rub together. Frequently this leads to the formation of bone spurs and irritated nerve roots.
Sometimes, spinal osteoarthritis is misdiagnosed as degenerative disc disease, in part because the symptoms of the two conditions are quite similar. Degenerative disc disease (DDD) is the breakdown of the discs between vertebrae rather than the cartilage between facet joints. It also should not be confused with rheumatoid arthritis in the spine, a less common, although potentially more crippling, autoimmune disease of joint tissue. Nor is osteoarthritis the same as osteoporosis, which is the loss of bone mass over time.
While neck or back pain caused by these conditions and others can resemble the symptoms of osteoarthritis of the spine, there are specific signs that could point to degenerative arthritis. These signs include:
- Intermittent joint pain that eases with movement
- Numbness or tingling in the arms or hands, as with cervical spine arthritis with spurring
- Weakness or numbness in the legs, as with lumbar spine arthritis with spurring
- Diminished joint flexibility
- The sensation of bone rubbing on bone
If you experience neck or back pain, you should consult your physician. A physical examination, combined with spinal imaging and blood tests, can determine the origin and nature of your pain. Many conditions can be treated non-surgically with exercise or pain/anti-inflammatory medicine. The goal of treatment isn’t to reverse the onset of the osteoarthritis, but can be effective for alleviating pain and maintaining or regaining spinal flexibility. If non-surgical treatment proves ineffective against chronic pain, your physician might suggest surgery as an alternative. Investigate all surgical options thoroughly. Laser Spine Institute is here to help with your investigation.
Laser Spine Institute’s surgeons have a variety of minimally invasive, outpatient procedures available to treat osteoarthritis of the spine. Each of these treatments has its own specific advantages and can be used to address a litany of different degenerative spine conditions in the neck and back. Contact the medical professionals at Laser Spine Institute for information about our minimally invasive surgical procedures and for a complimentary review of your MRI or CT scan.