Osteoarthritis and Spinal Stenosis

What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is one of the most common causes of spinal stenosis, according to the American College of Rheumatology. Further research shows that osteoarthritis affects up to 30 million Americans, making it the most prevalent form of arthritis. In fact, medical experts predict that, by 2030, 20% of all Americans will be at risk for developing osteoarthritis, and, as result, they also will be at risk for developing spinal stenosis. 

Generally speaking, osteoarthritis is a condition that comes with age. So, if you’re experiencing the pain and stiffness of aging, or if you have received a diagnosis of osteoarthritis and/or spinal stenosis, it’s important to understand how these conditions occur, how they are related, what their symptoms are and what treatments are available. 

Defining Osteoarthritis and Spinal Stenosis

Medical experts define each condition as follows:

  • Osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease that affects the weight-bearing joints, including the hips, knees, feet, and the joints of the spine. The word osteoarthritis is derived from “osteo,” which means bone, and “arthros,” which means a joint and its attachments.
  • Spinal stenosis. Stenosis is a narrowing or constriction of the nerve passageways in the spine, often caused by age-related conditions like osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease, and herniated discs.

Both conditions are related to general wear of the human body that happens with age. The spine is especially vulnerable because it has to support the weight of the upper body while being able to bend and flex for basic movement. The joints of the spine are protected by cartilage and lubricating synovial fluid to enable smooth motion.

Over time, the protective cartilage between joints can wear out, and bone starts to rub against bone — the resulting inflammation and symptoms are diagnosed as arthritis. The result of osteoarthritis is pain, inflammation, and the development of outgrowths known as bone spurs, or osteophytes. Bone spurs can grow on just about any joint, including on the facet joints, which are the joints of the spine. It would be identified as spinal stenosis if bone spurs caused a narrowing of the spinal canal or a nerve root exit and put pressure on nerve roots,

Treating These Conditions

Osteoarthritis or spinal stenosis do not affect everyone. But, as you age, you may want to consider some lifestyle changes that can slow down the development of either condition. Getting regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, using proper body mechanics, and assuming a better posture can promote healthier joints.

Most doctors will initially recommend treating symptoms with conservative, nonsurgical methods upon diagnosis. These may include:

  • Nonprescription anti-inflammatory medications
  • Prescription pain medication
  • Back bracing
  • Low-impact exercise such as walking or swimming
  • Weight loss
  • Epidural steroid injections
  • Surgery

Surgical intervention may be necessary if conservative efforts are ineffective. Through the use of modern technology, surgeons are now able to complete these procedures without the need for large incisions. BEST Health System is the industry leader in minimally invasive care. Even compared to other minimally invasive surgical providers, BEST is setting the blueprint. Contact our team to schedule an appointment or learn more about our services. Put an end to your back pain now and for all.