Arthritis of the spine, also called spinal osteoarthritis, is a very common occurrence and for many only results in minor aches and stiffness. This is a progressive joint disease that involves the deterioration of cartilage lining the facet joints that adds flexibility to the spine. Without this protective coating, the bones of the joints rub together, causing joint inflammation and potentially the formation of bone spurs as the body attempts to restabilize the affected joints.
In addition to localized symptoms, inflamed joints and bone spurs can sometimes compress surrounding nerves in the spine, causing weakness, numbness, pain and tingling sensations that radiate out to the extremities.
Warning signs for arthritis of the spine
Osteoarthritis is a normal part of aging, and may not cause symptoms for long periods of time. When symptoms do occur, they can often be relieved with rest and anti-inflammatory medications. However, there are symptoms of this condition that may indicate the need for more serious treatment.
Some of the warning signs that might indicate a more severe case of spinal arthritis can include:
- Any neck or back pain that accompanies feelings of weakness, numbness or loss of function in the extremities. Although these issues may seem unrelated, arthritis of the spine can actually lead to radiating symptoms like loss of fine motor skills in the hands or loss of coordination in the feet.
- Pain that doesn’t abate over a few weeks with rest and medication, or pain that worsens over time.
- Any spine pain that is accompanied by bladder or bowel control problems. These symptoms may indicate the presence of cauda equina syndrome. This very serious condition involves the compression of a bundle of nerves at the bottom of the spine and must be treated immediately to avoid permanent paralysis and other issues.
Treatment for arthritis of the spine
In these cases, arthritis of the spine and similar degenerative spine conditions should be addressed by a qualified medical professional. In nonemergency situations they will typically recommend conservative treatment measures like medication, rest and heat/ice therapy, but more severe cases may require surgical intervention.
If you are being recommended to undergo surgery for arthritis of the spine, contact the caring team at USA Spine Care to learn about the many advantages of our minimally invasive spine surgery. Our outpatient procedures are a safer and effective alternative to traditional open spine surgery, offering a shorter recovery time and less risk of complication for our patients.^
We are pleased to offer a no-cost MRI review* to help you determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.