Spinal Arthritis – Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Spinal Arthritis – Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Spinal Arthritis is a progressive disorder that gradually damages the facet joints, wears out the intervertebral discs and consequently affects other parts of the spine as well. It leads to the hardening of the vertebrae and hampers an individual’s ability to bend, move or twist. The condition most commonly affects the lower back as it bears the maximum body weight.

Arthritis can affect any articular surface; it is more likely to affect weight-bearing joints, which includes the spinal column. Functionally, the spine protects the spinal cord, sustains weight-bearing, and provides mobility. The spinal cord is composed of a three-joint complex. This complex consists of two facet joints (zygapophyseal joints), and one intervertebral disc, all of which are potential origins for back pain. These three components comprise a spinal motion segment, which facilitates degeneration over time. Degeneration forms vertebral osteophytes, facet joint osteoarthritis, and disc space narrowing. Specifically, spine osteoarthritis is the presence of disc degeneration and osteophyte formation.

Causes of Spinal Arthritis

  • Direct injury or trauma to the spine
  • A spine surgery
  • Age related wear and tear of the cartilage between the vertebrae
  • Calcium deficiency
  • Use of corticosteroid injections
  • Overweight
  • Post-menopausal changes
  • Genetic disposition
  • Diabetes
  • Infection in the spine
  • Congenital defects in bone structure
  • Overuse
  • Vehicular accidents

Symptoms of Spinal Arthritis

  • Pain in the back, hips, thighs which may aggravate after physical activity
  • Stiffness
  • Limited range of motion
  • Weakness in the legs, feet and arms
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness and warmth
  • Abnormal curving of the back
  • Crepitus

Diagnosis of Spinal Arthritis

  • Physical examination
  • Analysis of the patient’s medical and genetic history
  • X-ray imaging
  • MRI and CT scan to check for soft tissue, cartilage, tendon and nerve damage
  • Blood test may be done to check for infections
  • The patient may be asked to perform some exercises to assess the range of motion
  • Bone scan may be required
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Treatment of Spinal Arthritis

  • Maintaining a healthy weight to reduce pressure on the spine
  • Avoiding alcohol and smoking may prevent further degeneration of bones
  • Avoiding any activity which may cause discomfort and increase pain
  • Exercising to strengthen core muscles which support the spine and improve flexibility
  • Anti-inflammatory medicines may be prescribed
  • Application of ice packs or heat pads
  • Rest
  • Nutritional supplements to combat calcium deficiency

Physical therapy

  • Orthotic devices may be prescribed to provide support to the back
  • Surgical intervention may be required for chronic or severe cases of Spinal Arthritis the following procedures may be recommended.
    1. Arthrodesis- Surgical fusion of the vertebrae
    2. Surgical replacement of the damaged disc using artificial implants
    3. Removal of bone spurs
    4. Surgical decompression of nerves in the spine
    5. Discectomy- Disc debris and bulges may be removed using minimally invasive techniques.



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