Osteoarthritis in the spine risk factors


To better recognize the risk factors for osteoarthritis in the spine, it is important to define the condition. Arthritis can be broadly defined as joint inflammation. There are more than 100 types of arthritis. Osteoarthritis in the spine occurs as the cartilage between the vertebral facet joints breaks down. This can happen at every level of the spine. Currently there is no known method of cartilage replacement. Cartilage loss can initially be asymptomatic. Eventually symptoms emerge and worsen over time.

Risk factors for osteoarthritis in the spine

Although the cause of spinal osteoarthritis remains unclear, risk factors are easily identified, based on statistical analysis. These include:

  • Old age
  • Overused joints
  • Injury or trauma
  • Obesity
  • Genetics
  • Gender

Although we tend to think of osteoarthritis as an issue for the elderly, the other risk factors demonstrate that it can affect nearly anyone given the right circumstances. Those who have had occupations that require repetitive movement or heavy lifting, for example, are particularly at risk. A bad car accident or sports injury is common. And women are also more likely to develop osteoarthritis than men.

Symptoms of spinal osteoarthritis

As the condition worsens, symptoms become more likely. Initially, arthritis of the spine might arise as a mild ache, or tenderness, where the vertebrae connect and flex (facet joints). Gradually the body’s stability diminishes. This is caused by the loss of joint viscosity and growth of bone spurs known as osteophytes, which impinge upon nerve tissue. More advanced symptoms include:

  • Diminished joint flexibility
  • Persistent chronic joint pain
  • The sensation of bone rubbing or grinding against bone
  • Numbness or tingling in the arms or hands, as with cervical spine arthritis with osteophytes
  • Weakness or numbness in the legs, as with lumbar spine arthritis with osteophytes

Treatment for osteoarthritis symptoms

Symptoms are usually managed using conservative methods such as pain medication, physical therapy, massage or other nonsurgical treatments. If chronic neck or back pain persists despite weeks or months of conservative treatment, surgery could be prescribed.

Laser Spine Institute offers a number of minimally invasive alternatives to traditional open neck and back surgery for osteoarthritis in the spine. One example is facet thermal ablation, which deadens the painful nerves in the facet joint, utilizing a laser. Foraminotomy, laminotomy or minimally invasive stabilization may also be recommended, depending upon the case. All of these outpatient procedures are performed through a small incision, sparing the muscles from being cut or torn. In addition to this advantage over traditional open neck and back surgery in terms of recovery time, studies have shown Laser Spine Institute’s minimally invasive techniques also offer a decreased risk of infection.

Call now for your MRI review to see if you are a candidate for surgery at Laser Spine Institute.