Arthritis refers to the inflammation of the joints that causes pain, tenderness, stiffness, and swelling. It can affect any joint in the body, including those in the spine. Spinal arthritis can be a painful and debilitating problem. It often affects people ages 40 and older. If left untreated, it can cause physiological as well as psychological problems.
Spinal arthritis has no cure. However, several treatments are available that can reduce symptomatic pain, increase function and reduce the degenerative process.
What is spinal arthritis?
In spinal arthritis, cartilage breakdown occurs in facet joints. This causes mild to severe pain and can potentially radiate to other parts of the body such as the buttocks or upper thighs.
Spinal arthritis affects the facet joints (vertebal joints). Facet joints allow movement such as bending, twisting, and stretching. But these joints deteriorate as a person ages, leading to osteoarthritis of the spine.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It is a degenerative joint disease that worsens over time. When osteoarthritis affects the spine, the condition is considered as spinal arthritis, which is the most common cause of back and neck pain among adults.
Repetitive trauma to the spine from repetitive strains from accidents, surgery, sports injuries, poor posture, or work-related activities are common causes of spinal arthritis. Athletes, and people with jobs that involve repetitive and sometimes heavy motion have higher risk. Other contributing factors include aging, gender, weight, genetics and certain diseases such as diabetes and other forms of arthritis.
Arthritis in general includes inflammation, pain and stiffness in the joints. In spine, symptoms may include the following:
- Recurring back pain
- Back stiffness in the morning and reduced pain when resting, or after exercise
- Pain, tenderness, or numbness in the neck
- Pain in the lower back that radiates to the buttocks, thighs, or pelvic area
- Pain or tenderness in the shoulders, hips, knees, or heels
- Crunching feeling or sound on bones
- Weakness or numbness in arms or legs
- Limited range of motion
- Spinal deformity