Aging — a primary cause of spinal arthritis

Arthritis of the spine, which is usually a form of osteoarthritis, is most frequently associated with the natural aging process. In fact, most people have some degree of the condition by the time they reach 60 years old.

Symptoms of arthritis of the spine vary, but they can seriously affect your life, making even working in the yard or going to the store harder than they should be. Spinal degeneration is generally accepted as an irreversible process, but there are lifestyle factors and treatment methods available to manage the condition and comfortably engage in normal activity.

How aging affects the spine

Osteoarthritis of the spine occurs when the facet joint cartilage — which allows for smooth motion — wears down. This is because the body dries out with age and also because of the stresses the spine endures over time. After years of twisting, bending and handling heavy loads, the spine’s cartilage simply wears away. Without the buffer of slippery cartilage in place, the bones of the spine can grind against each other, producing the following symptoms:

  • Stiffness and decreased flexibility
  • Local pain and soreness
  • Grating and popping sensations called crepitus

Osteoarthritis can also lead to the development of bone spurs on the affected vertebrae as the body attempts to compensate for the lost cartilage. Bone spurs can become symptomatic when they make contact with a spinal nerve, leading to localized pain as well as radiating symptoms like numbness and tingling in the extremities.

Conservative and surgical treatment options

In cases where age-related osteoarthritis has led to disruptive symptoms, patients should see their doctor for advice about treatment. Frequently recommended options include:

  • Short periods of rest
  • Heat or cold therapy
  • Pain and anti-inflammatory medications
  • Gentle stretching and strengthening exercises
  • Low-impact aerobics

Specific treatments that a physician suggests will depend on each patient’s age, overall health, medical history and other factors.

If you have exhausted conservative options and have concerns about undergoing a highly invasive traditional open spine procedure, reach out to Laser Spine Institute today. We can help you learn more about minimally invasive spine surgery as a safer and effective alternative to traditional open neck or back surgery performed in a hospital.^

Contact our dedicated team of Spine Care Consultants today for a no-cost MRI review* to help determine if you are a candidate for one of our outpatient procedures.