What is 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 is likely closely associated with the natural degeneration of the spine due to age and weight gain. As the spine ages and body mass increases, the vertebrae of the spine, which are responsible for supporting most of the body’s weight, become compressed under the added pressure. This compression causes 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, however, refers to the breakdown of the discs between vertebrae rather than the cartilage between facet joints. Spinal osteoarthritis is also sometimes confused with rheumatoid arthritis in the spine, a less common, although potentially more crippling, autoimmune disease of joint tissue.

In order to accurately diagnose your condition, your physician or spine care expert will likely order an MRI or another imaging test 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’s 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 osteoarthritis of the spine can be easily mistaken for another spine condition, there are certain symptoms that more clearly indicate spinal osteoarthritis, including:

  • 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

Osteoarthritis treatment

While many patients are able to find relief using conservative, nonsurgical treatment options, other patients may require surgery to help reduce the pain and other symptoms of osteoarthritis.

Laser Spine Institute’s board-certified surgeons+ perform a variety of minimally invasive spine surgeries to treat osteoarthritis of the spine. Our procedures provide many advantages compared to traditional open neck and back surgery, and many patients are up and walking within a few hours of surgery.^ To learn more about our minimally invasive surgeries, please contact Laser Spine Institute today.

We would be happy to provide a free MRI review* if you would like to find out whether you may be a candidate for our procedures.