Spinal arthritis risk factors

Spinal arthritis is the inflammation of joints in the spine, specifically the facet joints that allow the vertebrae to hinge and move. These joints bear most of the body’s weight and are used most frequently, thereby making them susceptible to wear and tear over the years.

Because spinal arthritis is often a degenerative spine condition, it develops over time due to certain lifestyle habits and risks. It is important to be aware of these risks in order to promote a healthier spine. While spinal arthritis is not always avoidable, you may be able to postpone the development of this condition by avoiding some of the controllable risk factors. To better recognize spinal arthritis risk factors, it is important to understand the condition itself.

Causes and symptoms of spinal arthritis

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis found in the spine. While the primary symptoms of spinal osteoarthritis are fairly easy to recognize, many diseases can present similar symptoms. The cause of spinal osteoarthritis is degeneration of the cartilage in the facet joints.

The deterioration of cartilage between the joints decreases the stability of the surrounding vertebrae, so the body compensates by producing osteophytes (bone spurs). If bone spurs compress nearby nerve roots, local and radiating symptoms such as pain, tingling, numbness and muscle weakness can occur.

The most common risks for developing arthritis of the spine include:

  • Age — People 50 or older are more likely to develop arthritis of the spine.
  • Overused joints — This may occur through repetitive lifting, bending or twisting, as well as constantly slouching while seated at a desk or driving.
  • Injury or trauma to bones — Whiplash, compression fracture or other kinds of injuries can hasten the degradation of joints.
  • Obesity — Excess body weight places more stress on the joints.
  • Genetics — Inherited traits can make you more likely to develop arthritis.
  • Gender — Women are twice as likely to develop arthritis.
  • Other conditions — Decreased blood supply, chronic illness, infection or a diminished immune system can contribute to joint degradation; smoking and excessive alcohol intake also contribute.

Treating spinal arthritis symptoms

Many patients can find relief through conservative, nonsurgical treatment that lengthens the spine and removes pressure from the impacted nerve root that is causing pain. Treatment such as physical therapy and yoga simultaneously lengthen the spine while strengthening the surrounding muscles to help support the weight of the body and relieve some of the pressure from the spine. Other conservative treatments include pain medication, exercises and stretching.

If conservative treatment methods are not enough to manage the symptoms associated with spinal arthritis, surgery may be suggested. At Laser Spine Institute, we offer several types of minimally invasive surgery to treat spinal arthritis and the degenerative spine conditions that sometimes develop as a result of arthritis of the spine. Our minimally invasive decompression surgery removes a small portion of the bone spur or damaged disc that is pinching a nerve root, while our stabilization surgery offers support for the spine through artificial discs and/or bone spurs. Because of the minimally invasive nature of our spine surgery, our patients experience a shorter recovery time^ and a safer and effective procedure when compared to traditional open back surgery.

Contact Laser Spine Institute to learn how a minimally invasive, outpatient procedure performed using advanced techniques could help you rediscover your life without the trauma and lengthy recovery time^ of traditional open spinal surgery.