How to treat arthritis of the spine

Arthritis has been present since antiquity, so it is not surprising that a huge number of arthritis remedies exist. Most arthritis treatments aim to provide symptom relief and nearly all treatments for arthritis are conservative and nonsurgical. Surgery is usually suggested to remove a factor contributing to the underlying arthritis or to address an anatomical change resulting from arthritis.

Spinal osteoarthritis overview

Osteoarthritis of the spine is the most common type of spinal arthritis, affecting the facet joints of the spine. Facet joints are sliding joints found in the posterior portion of each vertebra. These joints allow the sliding of a vertebra over its adjacent one when flexing or extending the back. As we age, the articular cartilage of the facet joints degrades and becomes rough and worn out. This can result in inflammation, the formation of bone spurs, stiffness and pain, making the sliding action of a vertebra extremely painful.

Factors that can speed up this degrading of facet articular cartilage include:

  • Obesity
  • Overuse of the joint
  • A genetic predisposition
  • A lowered immune system

Conservative treatment for spinal osteoarthritis

There is no cure for most types of arthritis. Treatment for arthritis of the spine focuses on minimizing pain. To help reduce stress on the affected joints weight loss may be recommended. Rest, anti-inflammatory medications or gentle chiropractic therapy may also help to reduce symptoms. Many patients find steroid injections to be helpful; these are slow-release doses of cortisone to reduce inflammation and decrease pain. Gentle, low-impact exercises may improve strength, flexibility, endurance and endorphin levels.

Surgery for spinal osteoarthritis

If you have tried the above conservative treatment for arthritis of the spine for three to six months, and are still having serious symptoms, your doctor may discuss the option of surgery. Traditional spinal fusion surgery is directed at preventing movement of arthritic joints and easing pain. The downside of traditional fusion surgery is that it requires hospitalization and a lengthy recovery.

Minimally invasive alternatives for spinal osteoarthritis

At Laser Spine Institute, our surgeons specialize in minimally invasive procedures that are safer and effective alternatives to traditional fusion surgery. Our advanced techniques allow our surgeons to separate and move muscles, rather than cut them. Our procedures are performed on an outpatient basis with use of a small incision and 88 percent of our patients return to their daily activities within three months of having surgery.

To learn more about your options for a minimally invasive treatment for arthritis of the spine, call a member of our Care Team today. We will review your MRI and CT scan films, CDs and reports to assess your situation and determine if we can help.