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Arthritis in Spine

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Arthritis is a disease that causes tenderness, pain, stiffness and swelling of the joints. People often think of arthritis as a disease that affects the hands and knees. It is also associated as an oldage disease. However, it can affect other joints of the body as well, such as arthritis in spine. Let us learn more about arthritis in spine also called as spinal osteoarthritis.

What is Spinal Osteoarthritis?

Do you experience a dull prick in your lower back or develop a stiff neck after you wake up from sleep? Does your back get locked up when you try to pick up something from the floor? Are you irritated about the sharp pain around the waist after you carry out some vigorous activity like exercise? Well, it may be a sign of a progressive degenerative condition called osteoarthritis of the spine.

Osteoarthritis is a condition that occurs due to the wear and tear of the cushions between the spinal bones. This causes stiffness and pain of the neck and lower back. In some cases, the pressure of bones rubbing each other, presses the nerves running through the spine. Thus, one experiences weakness and pain in the arms and legs.

This condition is common in people over the age of 50 years as well as spinal osteoarhritis. If the damage to the bones affects the facet joints and the discs of the spine, it is called as spinal spondylosis.

What Does the Condition Feel Like?

Arthritis in spine usually gets worse after one rests or sleeps. Bending sideways or backways causes a lot of pain. The pain may be felt in the lower back and radiates into one or both buttocks. It can further radiate into the thighs. However, pain due to spinal arthritis, rarely radiates below the knee. Numbness and tingling are not observed in majority of the cases as the condition usually causes mechanical pain.

In some cases, the bones rubbing against each other can lead to bone spurs. If nerve compression occurs, leads to a condition called neural foramen. The bone spur at the nerve root can lead to inflammation and irritation of the nerves. Thus, causes symptoms such as numbness, tingling, slowed reflexes as well as muscle weakness.

Why Do I Suffer from Arthritis in spine Problem?

As we age, the cartilage cushioning between the vertebrae ages to. The repeated motions we carry out all our lives, takes a toll on these natural shock absorbers. Over time, they degenerate and cause arthritis of the spine.

Other causes include injury and overuse of the spine. Arthritis of the spine is very common in overweight and obese people, with pounds on their waist. It can also occur due to a genetic defect of the cartilage.

How Do Doctors Diagnose the Arthritis in spine?

Arthritis of the spine is diagnosed with the help of a spinal X-ray. The doctors also take the medical history of the patient and check any pain, tenderness, loss of motion in the neck or lower spine. Other tests include:

  • Blood tests
  • MRI
  • Joint aspiration to remove the synovial fluid

Treatment Options for Arthritis in spine

Arthritis in spine can be treated with rest to reduce the inflammation and pain. Sleeping on a firm mattress or lying down with knees bent and supported also eases the pain.

Anti-inflammatory medications lke NSAID or aspirin helps reduce the pain and discomfort. Muscle relaxants help ease the muscle stiffness. Some patients may be adviced physical therapy. Traction is generally suited for spinal arthritis. The therapist may teach the patient exercises that help strengthen the back and abdominal muscles. Hot and cold compress also helps ease the stiffness and inflammation.

Some people may require surgery such as facet rhizotomy and posterior lumbar fusion. After the surgery, the patient requires physical therapy to regain their back movement, endurance, function as well as strength.

Arthritis in spine is usually treated without surgery. In some cases, patients can suffer from bladder and bowel function incontigency. This happens when the nerves are damaged of the spinal cord. Speak to a health care professional for more help related to spinal arthritis.

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Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: April 07, 2015

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