Spondylitis is a general term for a group of conditions characterized by the inflammation of the vertebrae, which are the stacked bones of the spinal column. More specifically, spondylitis is a form of arthritis that causes inflammation in the joints of the spine, or facet joints, which are the hinge-like connections between the vertebrae, allowing the neck and back to move, twist, and bend. The inflammation of spondylitis can lead to chronic pain, discomfort, loss of motion, stiffness, and in some cases, fusion of the spinal bones.
Types of Arthritis
Like other joints in the body, the joints in the neck, back, and pelvis are susceptible to arthritis. Countless forms of arthritis have plagued the human form; from rheumatoid arthritis to facet disease to ankylosing spondylitis, our joints have plenty of enemies. So what’s the difference?
- Ankylosing spondylitis is an arthritic condition that involves stiffness and pain in the hips, back, and sometimes the extremities. Although it is characterized by a number of symptoms, its chief calling cards are the fusion of bone in the spine and sacroiliac (pelvic) pain and stiffness. The term ankylosing refers to stiffening of joints due to bone growth, while spondylitis refers to such stiffening with respect to the vertebrae. If ankylosing spondylitis is left untreated, it is possible for the vertebrae to fuse together, potentially causing spinal deformities and other complications. Ankylosing spondylitis is a form of seronegative arthritis, which means that the condition does not include indicators in the blood that would classify it as rheumatoid arthritis. Ankylosing spondylitis patients may need surgery if the spine fuses in a particularly deformed position.
- Psoriatic arthritis involves inflammation of the joints with an accompanying inflammation of the skin. It is far more common among older adults, with the psoriasis and the arthritis often presenting separately – sometimes as far apart as 20 years. Psoriatic arthritis is a systemic condition that can affect other organs, as well as the spine.
- Rheumatoid arthritis is a common condition that can affect joints throughout the body. It is an autoimmune disease, which means that the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own tissues. In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, the body attacks synovium, which is a thin layer of tissue that lines joints and excretes a lubricating fluid. Eventually, rheumatoid arthritis can cause chronic inflammation that can further deteriorate the joints, leading to cartilage, ligament, and bone damage.
- Osteoarthritis, sometimes called degenerative arthritis, is inflammation caused by the breakdown of cartilage due to wear and tear and aging. Loss of cartilage often can result in bones rubbing against each other. It is most common in the weight-bearing joints, such as the knees, hips, and spine joints.
Although these (and other arthritic conditions) can cause a huge impact on our quality of life because of pain, stiffness, and even deformity, there is little we can do but treat the symptoms. Mild to moderate cases tend to respond well to pain relievers and some specialized medicines that seek to slow the arthritic process.
Laser Spine Institute (LSI) offers minimally invasive, endoscopic procedures that can reduce the pain of spinal arthritis by deadening the nerve that innervates the arthritic facet joint. To learn more about our outpatient procedures and the many spinal conditions we treat, contact LSI today and we’ll provide you with a free review of your MRI or CT scan.