Arthritis of the Spine - What it is, What Causes it and How it Can be Treated
Receiving a diagnosis of arthritis of the spine can be a cause for concern. After all, when most people think of arthritis, they think of a condition that can affect joints throughout the body, and also a condition that gets progressively worse over time. Osteoarthritis is one of the most common of the many forms of arthritis, and it results from the deterioration of the cartilage that lines joints and eases their movements. Over years of use, the cartilage gets worn away, sometimes leaving bone to rub uncomfortably on bone, a condition known as crepitus.
When it comes to the spine, there are several components that are susceptible to deterioration due to the daily stress placed upon them. The facet joints, which allow the vertebrae of the spine to flex and move, are often affected by spinal arthritis, leading to bone rubbing against bone and causing the facet joints to ache. The contact also can stimulate the growth of bone spurs in these joints, possibly leading to decreased range of motion or joint stiffness. In more severe cases, these spurs can compress the nerves of the spine, leading to pain, numbness or a tingling sensation.
All of these complications might have you wondering what risk factors are linked to arthritis of the spine. Aside from the typical aging process, here are a few of the factors that are related to spinal osteoarthritis:
- Genetic predisposition – If close family members have suffered from arthritis in the past, you are likely at risk for the condition as well, according to current research.
- Gender – Women are more likely than men to experience the effects of arthritis, particularly after the onset of menopause.
- Traumatic incidents – Damage to the spine received during an automobile accident, a hard hit during a contact sport or another source of trauma could spur joint degeneration.
- Smoking – Smoking decreases the body’s circulation, reducing the amount of oxygen and nutrients that can be absorbed by the spine, thereby weakening it.
- Obesity – Excess body weight places undue stress on the spine, accelerating cartilage degeneration.
Alleviating the stiffness, pain and crepitus caused by arthritis of the spine and its related bone spurs is usually achieved through conservative measures, such as taking anti-inflammatory or pain medication, losing weight and performing specified stretches. If, after weeks or months of physician-guided treatment, results aren’t satisfactory, surgery might be indicated. In this case, be sure to research all of your options. Not only are there the traditional open neck and back options, there are minimally invasive, yet efficacious surgeries available at Laser Spine Institute that require less recuperation time and have fewer risks of complications. Contact Laser Spine Institute today to learn more.