Osteoarthritis of the spine is a condition where cartilage between the vertebrae wears away. This can lead to pain and stiffness as there is no cushioning left in the joints. It is estimated that around 80% of Americans will experience some type of lower back pain during their lifetime. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of spinal arthritis and is one of the leading causes of chronic lower back pain.
Causes of Spinal Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis, also known as facet joint arthritis, typically develops through the years due to wear and tear on the joints. As we age, the cartilage between our joints begins to wear thin, leading to pain and stiffness of the spine. In addition, when the disks between our vertebrae become thin, the joints do not have enough cushioning to absorb shock. This causes more pressure to be put on facet joints, which in turn causes more friction and damage to your cartilage.
Muscle strength, work habits, and lifestyle are all factors that can contribute to the development of spinal osteoarthritis. Other risk factors for spinal osteoarthritis include:
- Conditions such as psoriasis, diabetes, and other inflammatory disorders
Symptoms of Spinal Osteoarthritis
Pain from osteoarthritis of the spine usually stems from the lower back and can radiate down to the buttocks or upper thighs. Pain is often more noticeable when bending or twisting your back.
Symptoms that can accompany this condition include:
- Loss of strength in one side of the body (paralysis)
- Difficulty walking upstairs or downstairs
- Increased joint noise when moving (crepitus)
- Decreased range of motion
Diagnosing Arthritis of the Spine
Your doctor will likely perform a thorough physical exam to check for tenderness or pain in various joints to diagnose this condition properly. Your doctor may also order imaging tests such as:
- CT scans
Other tests include blood tests and joint fluid tests.
Treatments for Spinal Arthritis
Treatment methods for spinal osteoarthritis depend on the severity of the pain, age, and the patient’s health goals. Non-surgical treatments can include:
- Physical therapy focused on strengthening muscles around your back
- Medication like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Occupational therapy to help you perform everyday tasks
- Lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, losing weight, avoiding heavy lifting, and maintaining a healthy diet
If non-surgical treatments are not effective, then it might be time to seek help from a professional. Dr. Melamed at The Spine Pro specializes in minimally-invasive procedures that may help you get rid of your chronic lower back pain.
Surgery is an option when all other treatments have failed. The most common surgeries for spinal arthritis are:
Vertebral fusions aim to stop or prevent any further damage to the spine and restore spinal stability. Instability is typically caused by collapsed disks. Fusions work by removing the damaged disc and fusing the bones. This helps the vertebrae to heal together, which decreases pain while preventing any movement between them that could lead to further spinal damage. Click here to learn more about this treatment option.
Microdecompression is a minimally-invasive procedure that focuses on relieving pressure and pain from the nerves. This is done by removing small portions of bone to release the strain on your nerves. This procedure requires only a small incision with little recovery time. Click here to learn more about this treatment option.
Contact The Spine Pro
If you are suffering from chronic lower back pain due to osteoarthritis of the spine, then contact The Spine Pro today. Our office specializes in helping patients relieve their pain and improve their quality of life.
The Spine Pro is dedicated to providing a unique patient-centered approach without narcotics. In addition, most surgeries are performed on an outpatient basis, allowing them to go home the same day. To book an appointment, click here or call us at (310) 455-8943.