Generally, the signs and symptoms of arthritis include inflammation, stiffness and pain in the joints. In the spine, symptoms may also include one or more of the following:
- Back pain that comes and goes
- Spinal stiffness in the morning after getting out of bed or after activity. Often this pain decreases with rest or, for some, after exercise
- Pain, tenderness or numbness in the neck, if nerve impingement is involved
- Lower back pain that runs down into the buttocks, thighs, or pelvic area
- Pain or tenderness in the shoulders, hips, knees or heels
- A crunching feeling or sound of bone rubbing on bone
- Weakness or numbness in legs or arms
- Limited range of motion, difficulty bending or walking
- Spinal deformity
- Swelling and warmth in one or more joints, particularly during weather changes (which may be related to barometric pressure hanges and cooling of the air)
- Localized tenderness when the joint or affected area of the spine is pressed
- Steady or intermittent pain in a joint, which is often described as an aching type of pain
- Loss of flexibility of a joint, such as inability to bend and pick something off the floor
- A crunching feeling or sound of bone rubbing on bone when the joint is moved, particularly notable in the neck
- An abnormal curve in the spine which may be due to unbalanced muscle spasm
- A sensation of pinching, tingling or numbness in a nerve or the spinal cord, which can occur when bone spurs form at the edge of the joints of the spine and irritate the nerves
MRI of vertebral osteoarthritis at the level of the dorsal and lumbar vertebrae in a 68-year-old man. Compression of the cervical spinal column (in yellow) by displacement of the intervertebral disks (red).
Osteoarthritis is characterized primarily by stiffness and pain in the joints, although not everyone with osteoarthritis actually experiences these symptoms. The stiffness and pain tend to be worse in the morning and again in the evening, with improvement during the day as the person carries on his or her daily activities. Pain that awakens one during the night is often an indicator.
Pain by spinal region
Osteoarthritis pain in the lumbar region (lower back) can stem from nerve irritation from a herniated disc or from bone spurs and can cause weakness, numbness, tingling and/or pain in the legs that often radiates to the feet. Arthritis causing spinal stenosis, or narrowing of the spinal canal, in the lower back can cause pain in both legs and may lead to difficulty walking.
Osteoarthritis pain in the cervical region (neck), again, tends to be worse in the morning and evening, with improvement during the day. This pain often radiates to the shoulder, between the shoulder blades, and up the neck, causing headaches. With nerve impingement or a herniated disc, there may also be weakness or numbness of one hand, certain fingers or sometimes even in both arms.
Compression of the spinal cord in the neck can even cause problems with walking. In severe cases, it can cause issues with bowel and bladder control.
Your next steps…
The chronic pain associated with arthritis can very seriously affect your quality of life. If left untreated, it can also lead to physiological problems, such as muscle breakdown or weakness, as well as psychological difficulties such as anxiety and depression.
At Laser Spine Institute, facet thermal ablation is performed to address the pain caused by arthritis of the spine. Our professional staff has perfected this minimally invasive procedure, allowing patients the chance to live life to its fullest.
Following safe practices around your home and workplace can help you lower the risk of developing serious back problems, such as arthritis of the spine. The best tool you have at your disposal for combating back pain is education. Learn what the causes of arthritis of the spine are, and you will know what activities you should avoid or how you can modify activities to make them safer.
If you have questions we have not answered, please review our arthritis of the spine FAQ page. Feel free to contact us if you have any further questions or if you would like to know how Laser Spine Institute can help you.