Degenerative arthritis of the spine

Degenerative arthritis of the spine, also called spinal osteoarthritis, happens because of the breakdown of the cartilage within the spinal facet joints. It becomes more likely after the age of 50 and is more common in women than men. This degenerative condition is generally a result of years of normal wear and tear, but injury and genetics can also be contributors.

Inflammation and joint stiffness caused by degenerative spinal arthritis can cause discomfort and mobility problems for patients. This condition can also cause spinal narrowing (stenosis) and nerve compression that results in radiating symptoms in the upper or lower extremities. Any or all of these symptoms can become chronic and debilitating — taking you away from the people you love and everyday activities.

By educating yourself as a patient you can take more control of your treatment and work closely with your doctor to develop a care plan. Lasting relief from spinal arthritis is attainable and learning more about the full range of treatment options can help you return to a better quality of life.

Symptoms and conservative treatment

Symptoms of osteoarthritis of the spine include tenderness in the area of the affected spinal joints, diminished flexibility, swelling or the sensation of bone rubbing against bone. Shooting pain, muscle weakness, numbness and tingling of the extremities can occur if spinal nerves are compressed by enlarged joints or bone spurs. Like any condition, the type and severity of symptoms varies by patient.

If you experience neck or back pain, consult with your doctor for a diagnosis of the origin of the problem. Spinal arthritis is usually first treated with conservative therapy, with many patients not requiring surgery. Nonsurgical treatments for spinal stenosis and other painful conditions caused by degenerative arthritis of the spine include:

  • Exercise to increase muscle strength around the affected spinal joints
  • Over-the-counter or prescription pain medicine
  • Physical therapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Pain-reducing steroidal injections
  • Chiropractic therapy

Surgery for degenerative arthritis of the spine

If chronic neck or back pain due to spinal arthritis does not improve after weeks and months of conservative treatment, you may be recommended for surgery. Traditional open neck or back surgery involves an overnight hospital stay followed by a long recovery period due to the large, muscle-tearing incision required by this type of procedure.

Laser Spine Institute provides outpatient, minimally invasive spine surgery that is an alternative for patients with back pain. Our highly skilled surgeons use a less than 1-inch incision to access the spine, causing less muscle disruption and resulting in a shorter recovery time^ than traditional open spine procedures.

Contact our dedicated team today for a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you may be a candidate for minimally invasive spine surgery at Laser Spine Institute.