Osteoarthritis of the spine

Osteoarthritis of the spine is a condition that describes the gradual deterioration of the joints in the spine, which often leads to spinal instability and the development of other degenerative spine conditions.

While the definite cause of this condition is largely unknown, it seems to be closely associated to the natural degeneration of the spine due to age and weight gain. As the spine ages and the body increases in weight, the vertebrae of the spine, which are responsible for supporting most of the body’s weight, become compressed under the added pressure. This compression leads to stress on the vertebrae and the joints in between them, which leads to the development of osteoarthritis of the spine.

Diagnosing osteoarthritis of the spine

Sometimes, spinal osteoarthritis is misdiagnosed as degenerative disc disease because the two conditions occur between the vertebrae of the spine. Degenerative disc disease (DDD) is the breakdown of the discs between vertebrae rather than the cartilage between facet joints.

This condition is also sometimes confused with rheumatoid arthritis in the spine, a less common, although potentially more crippling, autoimmune disease of joint tissue. Additionally, osteoarthritis is the same as osteoporosis, which is the loss of bone mass over time.

In order to accurately diagnose your condition, your physician or spine care expert will order an MRI or CT scan to more closely determine the cause of your pain and symptoms. Many degenerative spine conditions result in similar symptoms, which can be misleading during a diagnosis. That is why it is important for your physician to order accurate imaging of your spine before diagnosing your disease and recommending treatment.

Symptoms of osteoarthritis of the spine

While neck or back pain caused by these conditions and others can resemble the symptoms of osteoarthritis of the spine, there are specific signs that could point to degenerative arthritis. These signs include:

  • Intermittent joint pain that eases with movement
  • Numbness or tingling in the arms or hands, as with cervical spine arthritis with spurring
  • Weakness or numbness in the legs, as with lumbar spine arthritis with spurring
  • Diminished joint flexibility
  • The sensation of bone rubbing on bone

Once your physician diagnoses your osteoarthritis, he or she can recommend treatments to fit your needs. While many patients may find relief from conservative, nonsurgical treatment options, other patients may require surgery to help reduce the pain and symptoms of this condition.

Laser Spine Institute’s surgeons perform a variety of minimally invasive, outpatient procedures to treat osteoarthritis of the spine. Each of these treatments has its own specific advantages and can be used to address a litany of different degenerative spine conditions in the neck and back. Contact Laser Spine Institute for information about our minimally invasive surgical procedures.