Degenerative spinal arthritis, also referred to as osteoarthrtitis or “wear-and-tear” arthritis, is an arthritic joint disorder in which the facet joints of the spine begin to degrade. In a healthy facet joint, cartilage and a layer of synovial fluid help to keep bone-on-bone friction minimal so that joints can move smoothly and painlessly. In the case of degenerative spinal arthritis, however, the cartilage degrades, turns brittle, and can no longer support the joint movement. In fact, a common symptom is the feeling of grinding, which is the sensation of bone moving against bone.
Clinically known as osteoarthritis of the spine, degenerative spinal arthritis comes with other symptoms such as:
- Limited range of motion
- Throbbing sensation
- Diminished flexibility
- Locking of the joints
- Radicular (radiating) pain
Often, degenerative spinal arthritis is confused with degenerative disc disease, but these are two separate conditions. Degenerative disc disease means that the cartilaginous discs in between each vertebral body begin to weaken and break down, leading to conditions like herniated disc, bulging disc, muscle spasms, and the growth of bone spurs.
Both spinal arthritis and degenerative disc disease can contribute to spinal stenosis, which is the narrowing of spaces in the spinal column that are designed to allow free passage of nerve roots and the spinal cord. Constriction of these passageways puts painful pressure on nerve tissue.
Arthritis also can cause bone spurs, or osteophytes. Bone spurs are your body’s way of trying to reinforce the spine with extra pieces of bone growth on the vertebrae, but unfortunately, this could further contribute to compression on the spinal nerves.
If your physician has diagnosed you with degenerative spinal arthritis and a conventional treatment regimen of rest, physical therapy, and pain medication has not proven effective, the option of having surgery may be presented to you. Contact Laser Spine Institute (LSI) and find out more about our minimally-invasive, endoscopic procedures, and for a free review of your MRI or CT scan.