Arthritis as a general term refers to the inflammation of joints and related symptoms, but there are many different types of arthritis that can be experienced. Two of the most common types that affect the spine are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is defined as the natural degeneration of joint cartilage as well as the surrounding bones. It is most commonly seen in individuals who have reached middle age or older, and it can cause pain and stiffness in any of the joints throughout the body — although the most commonly affected areas include the hips, knees and hands. In the spine, this arthritis develops as the cartilage between adjacent vertebrae wears away. Once the friction-reducing cartilage has been diminished or eliminated, the vertebral bones begin to grind against one another when they move. The body may address this issue by developing bone spurs. Although not necessarily painful, bone spurs can cause nerve compression that results in the following symptoms:
- Shooting pains
- Tingling and numbness in the extremities
- Muscle weakness
- Cramping and spasms
Rheumatoid arthritis is a less commonly occurring type of spinal arthritis, but it is still very disruptive. This type of arthritis is a chronic and progressive autoimmune disease characterized by inflamed joints that can become deformed and even limit mobility. It is most often seen in the fingers, wrists, ankles and feet, but it can also occur in the facet joints of the spine. In these cases, rheumatoid arthritis causes pain and swelling at the site of the joint, as well as other symptoms it shares with osteoarthritis.
Treatment options for arthritis of the spine
For most types of spinal arthritis, treatment will begin with a course of conservative measures as recommended by your doctor. Typical options include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, hot and cold therapy, therapeutic massage, physical therapy and spinal injections.
Spine surgery can become an option in cases of spinal arthritis where conservative treatments have been exhausted without bringing the relief necessary for a good quality of life. At USA Spine Care, our board-certified surgeons+ perform outpatient spine surgery to relieve nerve compression related to a range of conditions, including spinal arthritis and bone spurs. We also provide minimally invasive stabilization that is an alternative to traditional open spine fusion for patients dealing with spinal instability. To learn more, contact our caring and dedicated team today.
You can ask for your no-cost MRI or CT scan review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.