What is arthritis of the spine? Guide to symptoms and treatment

Arthritis is a term generally referring to joint inflammation and stiffness. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis, and these conditions affect millions of people. Spinal arthritis refers to damage of the skeletal surfaces within the facet joints of the spine.

The most common types of spinal arthritis are adult onset rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis of the spine

Osteoarthritis of the spine, often referred to simply as spinal arthritis, occurs when the surface cartilage within facet joints breaks down. Facet joints are sliding joints that allow adjacent vertebra to glide along with body flexion or extension. When the cartilage of the facet joints roughens due to age-related loss of water content, each movement of the joint can become stiff and painful. Degenerative arthritis of the spine may present any of the following symptoms:

  • Stiffness or swelling of the joints
  • Reduced range of motion
  • Reduced flexibility
  • Weakness, numbness, or tingling
  • A grating feeling as bone rubs against bone

Spinal arthritis treatment options

After establishing an accurate osteoarthritis of the spine diagnosis, a conservative treatment plan should be designed to meet your specific needs. Physicians commonly prescribe rest and low-impact activities, like walking or swimming, coupled with pain and anti-inflammatory medications. Some patients, however, do not benefit from these conservative treatments. In these cases, spine surgery may be necessary to achieve long-term pain relief.

If you find yourself in this frustrating position where conservative treatments have done little to help your symptoms, the board-certified surgeons+ at Laser Spine Institute may be able to help. Laser Spine Institute offers minimally invasive decompression and stabilization procedures to degenerative spine conditions like spinal arthritis. These outpatient procedures can help you find relief from your spinal arthritis pain without the risks and lengthy recovery associated with traditional open back surgery.^

As the leader in minimally invasive spine surgery, we have already helped more than 75,000 patients find lasting relief from neck and back pain. Contact us today to learn more and for a no-cost review of your MRI* to determine if you may be a candidate for one of our procedures.