A complete guide to arthritis of the spine

Arthritis of the spine is a condition that affects the joints of the spinal column. The most common form of arthritis that affects the spine — osteoarthritis — occurs when the cartilage that lines the joints wears away, mainly due to age-related degeneration. Normally, cartilage allows the bones within a joint to glide against each other to ease regular movement; however, when this cartilage is no longer present, the bones within a joint may grind against each other. This results in the joint inflammation that is the underlying cause of the symptoms experienced by patients with arthritis of the spine.

Arthritis of the spine symptoms

Perhaps the most prominent symptom of spinal osteoarthritis is the general stiffness associated with affected joints. Although not present for every patient who has arthritis in the spine, pain and inflexibility around the joints tends to be worse when the person is less active, especially first thing in the morning.

Other common arthritis of the spine symptoms include:

  • The feeling or sound of bone rubbing on bone
  • Aching and tenderness around the arthritic joint
  • Noticeable inflammation or warmness around the joint — especially during changes in weather
  • Spinal deformity and curvature, due to complications related to osteoarthritis
  • Growth of bone spurs, which can lead to pinching of neighboring nerves
  • Pain that moves down the lower back through the buttocks and legs, caused by nerve compression

Osteoarthritis causes and risk factors

Certain risk factors can make someone more vulnerable to developing osteoarthritis. Since this is an age-related condition, people who are older than age 45 are likely to see more deterioration of their spines, including osteoarthritis. Carrying around extra weight, sustaining injury from an automobile accident, performing a job that requires repetitive bending and inherited joint deformities can all make someone more prone to spinal arthritis.

Treatment options for arthritis of the spine

Spinal osteoarthritis isn’t reversible, but symptoms can often be managed with a course of conservative treatment options. Physicians typically recommend the following approaches:

  • Low-impact exercises, such as swimming, to improve core muscle strength and provide the spine with better support
  • Medications to relieve inflammation and pain
  • Hot and cold compression therapy to relax the muscles and increase circulation, and to reduce inflammation, respectively
  • Physical therapy to improve range of motion

Many patients are able to find relief through these methods. Some also complement conventional treatment with alternative therapies like chiropractic adjustment and acupuncture. Arthritis of the spine can be treated with surgery, but many patients are hesitant to undergo traditional open spine procedures due to the large incision, overnight hospitalization and long recovery time involved.

At Laser Spine Institute we offer minimally invasive outpatient spine surgery that is a safer and effective alternative^ to traditional open spine procedures for people with spinal osteoarthritis and other degenerative spine conditions.

For more information about Laser Spine Institute and the minimally invasive procedures that we offer for treating arthritis of the spine, contact us today. Our caring and dedicated team will help you receive a no-cost review of your MRI or CT scan* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.