What is degenerative spinal arthritis?

Degenerative spinal arthritis, also called osteoarthritis of the spine, occurs when the surface cartilage protecting the spinal facet joints starts to break down. With less cushioning between them, the vertebral bones in a joint can begin to grind together. Sometimes, the body responds by forming bone spurs, or osteophytes, in an attempt to stabilize the joint. Bone spurs in the spine are painful by themselves, but can narrow the already limited space within the spinal canal and cause nerve compression, leading to additional symptoms.

Degenerative spinal arthritis commonly results from years of wear and tear on the spinal anatomy as well as age-related changes in the spine. Injury or trauma to a spinal facet joint as well as genetic factors can also contribute to this type of arthritis.

Symptoms of degenerative spinal arthritis

Some of the more common symptoms of this condition include:

  • A sensation of bone rubbing on bone
  • Numbness or tingling in the arms or hands
  • Weakness or numbness in the legs
  • Reduced joint flexibility
  • Intermittent joint pain that eases with movement

The symptoms of spinal osteoarthritis can be similar to other spine conditions, which is why it’s important to see your primary care doctor for diagnosis and treatment to make sure you are getting the right care. Degenerative spinal arthritis is usually first treated nonsurgically with conservative options like pain relievers, anti-inflammatories, heating pads, cold packs and physical therapy.

When to consider surgery

If conservative treatments prove ineffective for relieving chronic or debilitating neck or back pain, a doctor or specialist may recommend surgery. Prior to consenting to a surgical procedure, it’s a good idea to be aware of the full range of treatment options available. The surgeons at Laser Spine Institute perform minimally invasive spine surgery, which is a safer and effective alternative to traditional open neck or back procedures, offering our patients less risk of complication and a shorter recovery time.^

Please contact us today for more information and to receive a no-cost MRI review* to find out if you may be a candidate for one of our procedures.