To better recognize spinal arthritis risk factors, it is important to understand the condition itself. Arthritis is the inflammation of joints. The joints bearing most of the body’s weight and those used most frequently are also the joints most commonly affected. These include the hands, hips, knees, feet and spine. There are more than 100 types of arthritis which are classified by location and cause. As the name implies, spinal arthritis occurs along the spinal column. The facet joints, sliding behind the vertebral canal, are the elements of the spine most frequently stricken by the degenerative effects of spinal arthritis. Degenerative disc disease (DDD) is sometimes included in the broad classification of spinal osteoarthritis, but DDD is technically not arthritis, but rather a malady of intervertebral discs.
Causes and symptoms
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis found in the spine. While the primary symptoms of spinal osteoarthritis are fairly easy to recognize, many diseases present with similar symptoms. The cause of spinal osteoarthritis is degeneration of the cartilage articular surfaces of vertebral facet joints. The precise cause of this degeneration remains perplexing. The degradation of cartilage between the joints threatens the stability of the affected vertebral segment. The body compensates by producing osteophytes (bone spurs). If bone spurs compress nearby nerve roots, a radiculopathy results. Radiating symptoms such as pain, tingling, numbness and muscle weakness occur. Many of the risk factors for development of spinal osteoarthritis are known. They include:
- Age – people 50 or older are more likely to develop arthritis of the spine
- Overused joints – this can occur through repetitive lifting, bending or twisting, as well as constantly slouching while seated at a desk or driving
- Injury or trauma to bones – whiplash, compression fracture or other kinds of injuries can hasten the degradation of joints
- Obesity – excess body weight places more stress on the joints
- Genetics – inherited traits can make you more likely to develop arthritis
- Gender – women are twice as likely to develop arthritis
- Other conditions – decreased blood supply, chronic illness, infection or a diminished immune system can contribute to joint degradation, smoking, and excessive alcohol intake also contribute
Treating spinal arthritis symptoms
If conservative treatment methods such as pain medication and physical therapy are not enough to manage the symptoms associated with spinal arthritis, surgery may be suggested. Contact Laser Spine Institute to learn how a minimally invasive, outpatient procedure performed using advanced, endoscopic techniques can help you recover your life without the trauma and lengthy recovery time of traditional open spinal surgery.