Definition, causes and treatment options for arthritis of the spine

Degenerative conditions, such as arthritis of the spine, can vary in location and severity depending on the cause of the condition. Osteoarthritis, the type of arthritis that is most commonly associated with the spine, results from the deterioration of the cartilage lining of the facet joints, which are the joints located in between individual vertebrae. While this cartilage deterioration may result in little more than minor discomfort at first, the effects can be wide ranging. As the cartilage slowly wears away, the local nerve endings within the joint may become inflamed, making neck and back movement stiff and painful.

When joints are weakened and the discs in the spine narrow, the body may attempt to compensate for the loss of spinal stability by growing bone spurs. Bone spurs are sharp projections that come out from the side of the bone in the hopes of stabilizing the spine in an area of weakness. However, if these bone spurs touch a nearby nerve in the spine, the nerve can become pinched, causing pain, numbness, muscle weakness and tingling. Learning what causes these symptoms in the following article can help you and your doctor determine the best treatment to reduce the pain and symptoms you are experiencing.

Causes of arthritis of the spine

Although arthritis of the spine is a relatively common result of growing older, there are several risk factors that seem to increase the odds of developing this condition. For example, some people have a genetic predisposition to developing spinal arthritis, as evidenced by their family medical history. Others may have experienced a traumatic injury to the spine, such as a car accident or a collision during a sports game, that can start to deteriorate the cartilage of the affected joint.

Less obvious factors include carrying excess weight, which can place unnecessary strain upon the spine, and smoking, which decreases circulation throughout the body and reduces the amount of much-needed oxygen and essential nutrients that are able to make it to the spine. Work environment is another factor to consider because employees who spend most of their days sitting run the risk of straining their lower backs and eventually developing arthritis of the spine. Occupations that require heavy lifting, bending and twisting can also cause deterioration of the cartilage lining the facet joints.

Conservative treatments for arthritis of the spine

No matter the root causes of arthritis of the spine, the resulting symptoms can sometimes prove disruptive to everyday life. To address these issues, doctors often recommend one or more conservative treatments, including anti-inflammatories, chiropractic care, physical therapy, traction therapy and steroid injections. Some patients find that alternative treatments like acupuncture also provide them with relief.

However, when these conservative treatments don’t produce significant results after several weeks or months, patients may consider surgery as a viable solution. In addition to the conventional open neck and back surgical procedures that are available, there are also minimally invasive procedures performed at Laser Spine Institute that require a shorter recovery period and involve fewer risks.^

Surgical treatments for arthritis of the spine

At Laser Spine Institute, our minimally invasive facet thermal ablation numbs the nerve roots around the arthritic joint to help prevent future pain in that area of the spine. Facet thermal ablation is most commonly performed with one of our decompression procedures. Our procedures provide a safer and effective alternative to traditional open spine surgery.^ For more information about how our minimally invasive spine surgery can help treat your spinal arthritis, contact Laser Spine Institute today.

Laser Spine Institute is the leader in minimally invasive spine surgery and has helped more than 75,000 patients find relief from chronic neck or back conditions, such as arthritis of the spine. The procedures performed by our board-certified surgeons+ use a small incision and muscle-sparing techniques, which result in less surgical blood loss and a reduced risk of infection compared to traditional open spine procedures.^

Reach out to our dedicated team today and ask for a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for our minimally invasive spine surgery.