Arthritis of the spine occurs when the smooth cartilage that lines the spinal joints breaks down and wears away. This can allow the underlying bone surfaces to rub against each other, leading to pain, inflammation and a reduced range of motion. The loss of cartilage often spurs an overgrowth of bone and the formation of protective bone spurs. These bony deposits can create further problems if they invade the spinal canal and exert painful pressure on spinal nerves.
While spinal arthritis can result from repetitive movement or a traumatic injury, its most common cause is age-related degeneration. This means that, much like getting older, arthritis of the spine can’t be avoided, so it’s essential to learn how to live with it.
Managing the effects of spinal arthritis
Even though arthritis of the spine is largely unavoidable, there are several steps you can take to live more comfortably with this condition. These include:
- Exercising regularly. Walking is an excellent, low-impact activity that can strengthen your muscles and bones without straining your spinal joints. When walking, always wear comfortable, supportive shoes. Also, become familiar with your limits and be careful not to overextend yourself.
- Achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight. Because your spine supports the majority of your body’s weight, even just a few extra pounds can take a significant toll on your spinal joints over time.
- Practicing good posture. When sitting, relax your shoulders, support your lower back and place your feet flat on the ground. Take frequent breaks to get up, stretch and walk around. When walking, stand tall, keep your chin up, look straight ahead and don’t lean forward or backward.
- Avoiding tobacco. If you smoke, quit now. If you need help, ask your physician to recommend a smoking cessation program. Tobacco use can dramatically increase your risk of spinal problems and other health conditions, some of which are potentially serious.
- Listening to your body. Pay attention to your arthritis symptoms and see your physician when necessary. Also, eliminate clutter from your life — both mental and physical — so that you can reduce your stress level, free your mind and focus on what’s most important.
Surgical treatment for spinal arthritis
If you’re experiencing severe or debilitating symptoms caused by arthritis of the spine, contact USA Spine Care. Our team can provide you with a free MRI review* to help you determine if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive outpatient surgery, which is a safer and effective alternative to traditional open surgery for spinal arthritis.