Osteoarthritis in the spine risk factors

To better recognize the risk factors for osteoarthritis in the spine, a good definition and understanding of the condition can be helpful. Arthritis can be broadly defined as joint inflammation; however, there are more than 100 types of arthritis. Osteoarthritis in the spine occurs as the cartilage between the vertebral facet joints breaks down as a result of effects related to natural aging.

Spinal osteoarthritis can become a very debilitating condition, getting in the way of spending time with your family, completing basic tasks or having a good night’s sleep. While no one can prevent aging, learning about some of the other risk factors for developing this condition can be beneficial for both preventing and treating this condition.

Risk factors for osteoarthritis in the spine

Although the cause of spinal osteoarthritis remains unclear, there are several risk factors that are associated with the development of this condition. These include:

  • Overused joints, such as from a job that requires repetitive bending and lifting
  • Injury or trauma, including auto accidents
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Genetics
  • Gender
  • Poor posture
  • Smoking

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 statistically 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 be felt as a mild ache, or tenderness, where the vertebrae connect and flex. Gradually the body’s stability diminishes. This is caused by the loss of joint viscosity and growth of bone spurs, which can compress spinal nerves. More advanced symptoms include:

  • Joint stiffness
  • Persistent chronic joint pain
  • The sensation of bone rubbing or grinding against bone, called crepitus
  • Numbness or tingling in the arms or hands, which can be caused by nerve compression in the upper spine
  • Weakness or numbness in the legs, usually caused by spinal arthritis in the lower back

Treatment for osteoarthritis symptoms

Symptoms are usually managed using conservative methods such as pain medication, physical therapy, massage, rest and hot/cold compression therapy. If chronic neck or back pain persists despite weeks or months of conservative treatment, you could be referred to a specialist for a surgical consultation.

Laser Spine Institute offers minimally invasive spine surgery as a safer and effective alternative to traditional open spine procedures.^ Our procedures are performed through a less than 1-inch incision, which helps to spare important supporting muscles and allows for an outpatient procedure with less risk of complication.

To learn more, call now and ask for your no-cost MRI review* to see if you are a potential candidate for surgery at Laser Spine Institute.