Why Does Arthritis Develop?
The spine is one of the most complex structures in the human body. It is an intricate combination of bones, nerves, tissues, joints, muscles, and tendons all working together to provide support and motion, as well as protection for the spinal cord. With such a finely tuned system, it’s not surprising it can deteriorate over time. Arthritis of the spine is a degenerative condition that affects the facet joints. These structures act like hinges for the vertebrae, allowing them to move so the spine can flex from neck to hips.
As we age, the cartilage that lubricates the joints gradually thins due to their near-constant motion. If enough of the cartilage wears away, then the bones of two adjacent joints may begin to rub together, causing stiffness and inflammation. It can also prompt the formation of bone spurs, which are calcium deposits that build up as a means of protecting the joints from being ground down due to friction.
Finding Relief from Arthritis
Arthritis of the spine is an extremely common condition. Symptoms can range from mild stiffness to constant and acute pain. There are a number of treatment options available for managing discomfort associated with osteoarthritis. Your doctor will usually begin with conservative strategies that may include:
- Over-the-counter and prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) — to reduce swelling in and around the affected joints
- Physical therapy — to improve joint mobility, strengthen neck and back muscles, and reduce stiffness and pain
- Low-impact exercises, such as yoga and water therapy — to increase strength, flexibility, and blood flow throughout the spine
- Hot/cold therapy — to relax muscles, reduce inflammation, and diminish pain
- Stretching — to make tendons and ligaments more limber
- Chiropractic manipulation — to decompress facets joints through gentle traction
- Steroidal injections — to reduce swelling and relieve pain
It is always best to begin with conservative therapies like the ones listed above. However, if you do not notice any improvement after a few consecutive months, you may be a candidate for surgery.
Surgery with BEST Health System
Many patients with arthritis of the spine can successfully manage their symptoms using one or more of these treatments. In some cases, however, surgery may be required to provide long-term pain relief. Due to modern medical technology, open-back surgery is no longer a patient’s only option. At BEST Health System, we offer minimally invasive surgical alternatives. This means our patients can expect significantly smaller incisions, less scarring, and a faster recovery, all on an outpatient basis.
Contact BEST today to schedule a consultation.