Osteoarthritis and the Normal Aging Process
Osteoarthritis occurs as a result of the degeneration of cartilage within joints throughout the body. Articular cartilage reduces friction and cushions joints. Osteoarthritis of the spine specifically refers to a reduction of the cushioning and friction reduction mechanisms within facet joints. Facet joints are sliding joints between the vertebrae. Osteoarthritis of facet joints is simply caused by the wear and tear placed on our joints as we age. Some spinal osteoarthritis is found in almost all individuals by the time they reach their 60s.
Symptoms and treatments
Patients with osteoarthritis of the spine commonly experience neck and back pain, numbness, tenderness and limited range of motion. There are several conservative treatments to alleviate symptoms. First consult a physician or back specialist to rule out more serious illnesses. Then, many courses of home treatment could be prescribed. Each patient’s treatment should be tailored to his or her specific diagnosis. Some common at-home treatments include:
- Over-the-counter medications – Some medications can alleviate both pain and inflammation, common symptoms associated with osteoarthritis. Special care should be taken to reduce the risk of drug interactions; please consult your physician or pharmacist before taking over-the-counter pain relievers.
- Exercise – Regular exercise can strengthen the muscles surrounding the joints in the neck and back, sometimes resulting in decreased pain levels. Stretching these muscles can also promote joint flexibility and improve range of motion.
More effective treatment at Laser Spine Institute
Before trying any of the above methods, be sure to speak with your primary care physician or a back specialist. If the above methods have failed to provide you with any relief, please contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about our minimally invasive, outpatient treatment options.