Arthritis of the Spine Treatment

Arthritis of the Spine

Arthritis of the spine treatment — addressing the symptoms of spinal arthritis

Many treatments are available to relieve the symptoms of spinal arthritis effectively; however, there is no cure for any form of arthritis. The goal of arthritis of the spine treatment is to slow the progression of the disease, decrease the discomfort, maximize joint function and preserve or improve mobility and range of motion. In prescribing treatment for your spinal arthritis, your physician should first assess the severity of your condition, as well as consider your age and overall health before designing a treatment plan that is right for you.

Conservative arthritis of the spine treatment

When osteoarthritis of the spine is diagnosed, the next step is to develop a comprehensive treatment plan. There are many different ways to potentially treat spinal arthritis, but it is important to understand that arthritic degeneration cannot be reversed. Osteoarthritis entails a loss of cartilage within the joint, and cartilage cannot be regrown or replaced. However, this is not to say that patients with spinal arthritis don’t have options. Many methods can be highly effective for managing and mitigating the symptoms of arthritis while maintaining or even improving spinal flexibility.

More often than not, when a patient is diagnosed with arthritis of the spine, treatment is first attempted nonsurgically with a variety of conservative methods. It’s important to note that while there are many different techniques that can possibly be considered, what works for one individual will not necessarily work for everyone. Furthermore, the specific treatment plan recommended can vary widely based on a number of factors, including the severity of the arthritis and the overall health of the patient. For instance, an otherwise healthy, active person with arthritis will require a different treatment approach than an elderly patient. Additionally, with some treatments, it may take several weeks or months for the patient to experience sufficient results. This process often entails trial and error and can be frustrating at times, but in most instances a conservative approach is prudent and will prove effective. It’s simply a matter of finding the right combination of treatments that works best for the specific patient, and it’s up to the patient to inform the physician when a specific approach seems to be working or making matters worse.

While there are many different options available, here are some of the most common conservative treatments:

  • Exercise — Low-impact exercise and stretching can be a great way to shed excess weight, alleviating strain on the spine in the process. Furthermore, the right exercises can strengthen the muscles that support the neck and back, further reducing the burden placed on the spinal joints.
  • Rest — Limited rest may help alleviate pain temporarily, but it is also important to avoid becoming sedentary. Prolonged periods of inactivity can make the symptoms of spinal arthritis all the more severe, potentially exacerbating the issue.
  • Hot and cold therapy — The application of heat to a sore neck or back can help the healing process by promoting circulation to the painful area around the arthritic degeneration; the application of an icepack, on the other hand, can help reduce swelling and numb pain.
  • Medications — The use of over-the-counter or prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs is often recommended to manage pain and alleviate inflammation. Pain medication, muscle relaxers and anti-depressants may also be recommended.
  • Lifestyle adjustments — Quite often, if a patient is overweight, a spine specialist may recommend a healthy diet to help the patient shed excess pounds. Other lifestyle adjustments like limiting alcohol consumption, improving overall posture and quitting smoking are frequently recommended as well.
  • Complementary and alternative methods — Many patients choose to utilize complementary or alternative medicine alongside their traditional treatments. The use of deep tissue massage, acupuncture and chiropractic therapy are all quite common. It should be noted that these approaches remain somewhat controversial within the medical community, and a patient is always advised to speak with his or her physician before scheduling any additional treatment.

Facet joint injections are another popular form of arthritis of the spine treatment. This option entails the injection of a local anesthetic and often steroidal medication directly into a degenerated joint. The purpose of this treatment is twofold. First, injections of this nature can help confirm the diagnosis of arthritis in a facet joint. If a patient experiences complete pain relief after the medication is injected, the exact source of the problem is understood. Second, facet joint injections can reduce inflammation and provide significant pain relief for weeks or months, allowing a patient to pursue other treatments — such as physical therapy — that may be too painful otherwise.

When to consider surgery

While conservative arthritis of the spine treatment methods can be highly effective and most patients experience the relief they require from this style of treatment, in certain situations surgery may be advised. Surgery is almost always considered the treatment of last resort when no other approach has proven effective, but it is still a significant decision that should not be taken lightly. Furthermore, there are many different surgical treatment options to consider, so it is always wise to receive a second and third opinion before consenting to any operation. Some procedures are performed in a traditional hospital setting, whereas other methods — such as the procedures performed at Laser Spine Institute — are minimally invasive in nature, are performed in an outpatient setting.

Next steps

If your physician suggests that you are a candidate for surgery to address spinal arthritis, be sure to learn about the innovative procedures we offer at Laser Spine Institute. Our team specializes in a variety of minimally invasive decompression procedures and minimally invasive stabilization procedures, one of which might benefit you. At Laser Spine Institute, each of our arthritis of the spine treatment options is performed on an outpatient basis and requires only a small incision to provide our highly experienced surgeons sufficient access to the problem area. Furthermore, during our procedures, muscle tissue is carefully moved aside, rather than cut, which can reduce the risk of postsurgical complications and allows many patients to begin postsurgical rehabilitation sooner than would be possible after a traditional open spine surgery, where a large incision is required. To learn more about the many treatment options that are currently available to patients who have been diagnosed with arthritis of the spine, or for additional information about the minimally invasive procedures we offer at Laser Spine Institute, contact us today.