Arthritis of the spine — common causes

Spinal osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition with a range of underlying causes and risk factors. If you have been diagnosed with arthritis of the spine and want to learn more about the specific causes of your individual condition, the best place to start is with your diagnosing physician. However, it is also important to educate yourself as a patient to become more informed about this condition in general.

Although arthritis of the spine is an irreversible condition with contributing factors like age and genetics that are beyond anyone’s control, there are other causes related to your lifestyle that can be changed. Understanding the full range of causes for spinal arthritis can help you in both treating the symptoms and also potentially slowing down the progression of this condition.

Specific causes

Osteoarthritis of the spine is caused by the gradual breakdown of the cartilage that protects the facet joints. Facet joints allow adjacent vertebrae to flex and extend, but can become stiff and inflamed if the cartilage becomes brittle and wears away. Bone spurs, or osteophytes, can develop in arthritic joints as a natural response to this increased joint friction. Inflamed joints and bone spurs can both narrow the spinal canal and nerve root exits, potentially leading to painful nerve compression.

Arthritis of the spine is primarily caused by the following factors:

  • Aging. Deterioration of joint cartilage can begin as early as age 30, but accelerates after 50.
  • Gender. In general, spinal arthritis is more common in post-menopausal women.
  • Obesity. Excess weight puts stress on the facet joints, contributing to cartilage deterioration.
  • Disease. Gout, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and infections can cause spinal osteoarthritis.
  • Genetics. A family history of arthritis or other abnormal joint conditions also increases your risk.

Treatment options

Many patients with spinal arthritis can manage their symptoms nonsurgically through a conservative treatment plan. Your doctor may suggest anti-inflammatory drugs, hot/cold compresses and gentle stretching, among other options. Lifestyle changes, like weight management, posture correction and quitting smoking may also be recommended. Surgery may be suggested in certain cases if weeks or months of these treatments fail to offer lasting pain relief. If you are in this situation but have concerns about the risks and difficulties of traditional open spine surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute.

Our highly skilled surgeons perform minimally invasive surgical procedures as a safer and effective alternative to traditional open spine surgery.^ Our state-of-the-art, minimally invasive techniques have helped more than 75,000 patients find relief from neck and back pain through an outpatient experience.

For a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you may be a candidate, reach out to our dedicated team of Spine Care Consultants today.