Osteoarthritis and the normal aging process

Osteoarthritis occurs as a result of the degeneration of cartilage within joints throughout the body that can lead to joint inflammation. Articular cartilage reduces friction and cushions joints. Osteoarthritis of the spine is a form of this condition that 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 typically caused by the wear and tear placed on our joints as we age. Some degree of spinal osteoarthritis is found in almost all people by the time they reach their 60s.

Symptoms and treatments

Patients with osteoarthritis of the spine can experience neck and back pain, numbness, tenderness and limited range of motion. Upon diagnosis, there are several conservative treatments to relieve these symptoms that your doctor may recommend. Each patient’s treatment should be tailored to his or her specific diagnosis. Some common at-home treatments include:

  • Over-the-counter medications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can relieve both pain and inflammation, common symptoms associated with osteoarthritis. Special care should be taken to reduce the risk of drug interactions; please consult your doctor before taking over-the-counter pain relievers.
  • Exercise. Regular exercise can strengthen the muscles surrounding the joints in the neck and back, which can help relieve pressure on them. Stretching these muscles can also promote joint flexibility and improve range of motion.
  • Facet joint injections. The injection of a numbing agent and a corticosteroid into a painful spinal joint can reduce pain and inflammation enough to help improve mobility and can allow a patient to complete an exercise or physical therapy program.

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. In some cases of spinal osteoarthritis, surgery can start to become an option if weeks or months of conservative treatment have not brought the relief necessary to comfortably engage in everyday activities. If you are being recommended to undergo spine surgery, please contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about our minimally invasive outpatient treatment options.

We are happy to provide a free MRI review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.