A Guide to Spinal Arthritis | BEST

Osteoarthritis of the spine is a condition that describes the gradual deterioration of the joints in the spine, which often leads to spinal instability and the development of other degenerative spine conditions. While the definite cause of this condition is largely unknown, it is likely closely associated with the natural degeneration of the spine due to age and eight gain. As the spine ages and body mass increases, the vertebrae of the spine, which are responsible for supporting most of the body’s weight, become compressed under the added pressure. This compression causes stress on the vertebra and the joints in between them, which leads to the development of osteoarthritis of the spine. 

Cervical spinal arthritis occurs in the upper portion of the spine; its main symptoms include pain and stiffness in the neck. In more advanced cases, a patient may feel pain, numbness and muscle weakness in the shoulders, arms, hands, and fingers. Lumbar spine arthritis affects the lower region of the spine, so it can cause lower back stiffness and aching, weakness or numbness of the legs, as well as shooting pains in the lower back, buttocks, and pelvic area. 

Diagnosing Osteoarthritis of the Spine

Sometimes, spinal osteoarthritis is misdiagnosed as degenerative disc disease because the two conditions occur between the vertebrae of the spine. Degenerative disc disease, however, refers to the breakdown of the discs between vertebrae rather than the cartilage between facet joints. Spinal osteoarthritis is also sometimes confused with rheumatoid arthritis in the spine, a less common, although potentially more crippling, autoimmune disease of joint tissue. 

In order to accurately diagnose your condition, your physician or spine care expert will likely order an MRI or another imaging test to more closely determine the cause of your pain and symptoms. Many degenerative spine conditions result in similar symptoms, which can be misleading during a diagnosis. This is why it is so important for your physician to order accurate imaging of your spine before diagnosing your disease and recommending treatment. 

Spinal Arthritis Symptoms

Spinal arthritis symptoms are often at their worst first thing in the morning and after any extended period of activity. Common symptoms include:

  • Neck and back pain
  • Tenderness and numbness in the neck
  • Swelling and stiffness in the joints
  • Limited range of motion
  • Difficulty bending
  • A crunching sensation in the spine

Treating Spinal Arthritis

Spinal arthritis is problematic because it can limit your ability to work, travel, and enjoy leisure time. Fortunately, numerous effective treatment options are available for you to try and regain your quality of life. Most patients benefit from conservative treatments like exercise, rest, medication, or chiropractic care. Consult your physician and together develop a personalized treatment plan. However, if you already experience severe spinal arthritis symptoms or are not responsive to nonsurgical treatment methods, surgery might be the best option. 

BEST Health System

BEST Health System specializes in minimally invasive spine surgery that is a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back procedures and offers many benefits, including less risk of infection and no lengthy recovery. For more information on how BEST can help you find relief from chronic neck and back pain, contact us today.