Before exploring arthritis of the spine treatment options, it’s helpful to learn the basics of this condition. Also known as spinal osteoarthritis or facet disease, arthritis of the spine affects the spinal joints where two vertebrae meet.
Arthritis of the spine is a common degenerative disease that occurs when the smooth cartilage that covers the joints between each set of vertebrae begins to deteriorate. Once the cartilage wears away, the unprotected joints rub together. Protrusions called bone spurs may also develop as a result of joint friction. Bone spurs can cause spinal nerve compression in some cases.
Spinal osteoarthritis typically affects people older than 45. While symptoms vary from person to person, many people experience pain and tenderness around the spinal joints, stiffness, reduced mobility and uncomfortable grating sensations.
Conservative treatments for spinal osteoarthritis
There is no one ideal treatment for arthritis of the spine. Depending on the location and severity of the joint degeneration, the patient’s overall health and several other factors, a number of treatment approaches may be taken. Many patients are able to find relief from osteoarthritis pain and dysfunction through conservative methods. Here are three commonly suggested treatments:
- Physical therapy. A structured course of targeted exercises and other methods, physical therapy can help strengthen the muscles surrounding the spine, stabilize the vertebrae and increase range of motion.
- Medication. Discomfort from spinal osteoarthritis can sometimes be relieved with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and pain medication. It is important to consult with your doctor about the type of medication and dosage level that is right for you.
- Facet joint Injections. Injecting an anti-inflammatory agent and numbing medication into an affected spinal facet joint can provide pain relief and improved mobility.
Alternative treatments for spinal osteoarthritis
Many people with spinal osteoarthritis explore alternative treatments to help manage symptoms. While not recommended as a primary form of treatment, activities like yoga and tai chi have been shown to reduce some osteoarthritis pain and stiffness. Another promising therapy is acupuncture, which may help relieve arthritis pain by stimulating the nerves, muscles and connective tissues. Chiropractic care is also sometimes used to restore mobility through manual manipulations of the spinal column. It is important to stay in contact with your doctor if you decide to integrate any of these methods into your treatment plan.
Surgery for spinal osteoarthritis
While effective for many, other spinal osteoarthritis patients do not find the relief they need by following a course of alternative or conservative treatments. In such cases, surgery may be suggested to decompress irritated nerves or stabilize the vertebrae. For those being recommended for spine surgery, USA Spine Care provides minimally invasive procedures that are performed on an outpatient basis. An alternative to traditional open spine surgeries, our procedures can be performed through a less than 1-inch incision with muscle-sparing techniques, meaning less risk of complication and a shorter recovery time.^ To learn about minimally invasive outpatient surgery for spinal osteoarthritis at USA Spine Care, contact us today.
We can provide you with a free MRI review* to determine if you may be a candidate for one of our outpatient procedures.