Signs of arthritis of the spine and other spinal degeneration you must not ignore
Arthritis of the spine and other forms of spinal degeneration are a very common occurrence, and in most cases, they shouldn’t really be cause for alarm. Spinal osteoarthritis is progressive joint disease that involves the deterioration of cartilage lining the facet joints that add flexibility to the spine. Without this protective coating, the bones of the joints rub together, causing joint pain and the formation of bone spurs as the body attempts to restabilize the affected joints. These spurs can sometimes impinge on surrounding elements of the spine, including the nerve roots — an issue that can lead to localized pain, as well as weakness, numbness, pain and tingling sensations that radiate down the affected nerves.
Osteoarthritis is a normal part of aging, and may be asymptomatic for long periods of time. When symptoms do occur in the spine, they will typically resolve themselves after short period of rest and taking anti-inflammatory medications. That said, there are instances when such symptoms shouldn’t be ignored; they can be signs of more serious spinal damage and should be addressed quickly.
Some of the warning signs that might indicate a more advanced complication can include:
- Any spine pain that accompanies feelings of weakness, numbness or loss of function in the extremities. Although these issues may seem unrelated, arthritis of the spine can actually lead to radiating symptoms like loss of fine motor skills in the hands or loss of coordination in the feet.
- Spine pain that doesn’t abate over a few weeks with rest and medication, or pain that worsens over time. Most cases of pain that accompanies arthritis of the spine will resolve themselves; the persistence of pain may point to an underlying condition requiring prompt treatment.
- Any spine pain that is accompanied by bladder or bowel control problems. These symptoms themselves are not only tough to cope with, they may also indicate the presence of cauda equina syndrome. This very serious condition involves the compression of a bundle of nerves at the bottom of the spine, an emergency condition that must be treated immediately to avoid permanent paralysis and other issues.
In these cases, arthritis of the spine and similar degenerative spine conditions should be addressed by a physician and potentially a spine specialist. They will typically recommend conservative treatment measures like medication, rest and heat/ice therapy, but more severe cases may require surgical intervention.