Symptoms of spinal arthritis

Symptoms of spinal arthritis can vary from patient to patient. Some symptoms may be as mild as occasional aches and stiffness, or as severe as deformities of the spine that lead to chronic pain. Understanding symptoms of spinal arthritis is a great first step in finding relief from arthritic pain. However, it is also important to understand the specific type of arthritis you have and the treatments that are available for your condition.

Arthritis is a broad term used to describe a variety of conditions involving the joints. If you have been diagnosed with spinal arthritis — or arthritis of the spinal facet joints — it is usually further categorized into two main kinds of arthritis: osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.

Symptoms of different types of spinal arthritis

Osteoarthritis of the spine, the more common of the two conditions, is a degenerative form of spinal arthritis, meaning that the cartilage of the facet joints begins to degrade and break down, causing increased bone-on-bone contact. When this happens, bone spurs, also called osteophytes, can form as a natural attempt to stabilize the area around the joint. Bone spurs can exert painful pressure on nerve roots or the spinal cord. Symptoms of spinal arthritis in this form include:

  • Limited range of motion
  • Radiating pain, numbness, and weakness
  • Diminished flexibility
  • A crunching feeling, which is bone rubbing on bone, because the protective cartilage layer on the joint has disintegrated
  • Stiffness, especially after reclining or sitting down for a period of time
  • Bone spurs

Spinal rheumatoid arthritis, potentially the more painful of the two conditions, is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s own cells attack and destroy the synovial membrane on joints. The synovial membrane is responsible for keeping joints lubricated and working smoothly. This issue can cause severe inflammation of the facet joints. Symptoms of spinal rheumatoid arthritis can include:

  • Pain that may feel warm
  • A gradual change in the shape of the spine, which can lead to deformity
  • Swelling and puffiness
  • Tenderness to the touch
  • Stiffness
  • Fatigue

Who to see for treatment

For diagnosis and treatment of spinal arthritis, there are several types of experts with whom you could consult, including:

  • Primary care physician — generally your “first contact,” who will perform an exam and should refer you to the proper specialist
  • Rheumatologist — specializes in conditions involving connective tissue and joints
  • Orthopedist — expert in issues involving bones, muscles, and degenerative disease

If you have seen one or more of the above types of experts and they have diagnosed you with arthritis of the spine, relief and a return to normal activities can often be achieved with conservative treatments like anti-inflammatory medication and physical therapy.

If you have exhausted conservative treatments and are being recommend for surgery, reach out to Laser Spine Institute before consenting to a highly invasive traditional open spine procedure. Our dedicated and caring team can give you more information about minimally invasive spine surgery that offers patients less risk of complication and a shorter recovery period when compared to traditional open spine surgery.^

Contact us today for your no-cost MRI review* to help you determine if you may be a candidate for one of our procedures.