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What causes arthritis of the spine?

There are a number of different types of arthritis that can affect the spinal column, but the most common is osteoarthritis. This type of arthritis of the spine, also called facet disease, describes inflammation of the spinal joints that can cause stiffness, aches, grinding sensations and radiating pain into the upper or lower extremities.

Pain related to arthritis of the spine can get in the way of a good quality of life, negatively affecting time with loved ones, your job, hobbies and being able to do basic work around the house. Fortunately, there are effective treatment options available and a great first step is learning more about spinal arthritis, including the primary causes.

Spinal arthritis — causes and contributors

Arthritis of the spine is closely linked to the natural aging process and degeneration of the cartilage that protects the spinal facet joints. Over the years this cartilage begins to dry out and become brittle, causing it to wear down. This leads to increased bone on bone contact between the joint faces as the spine bends and flexes, which in turn causes the inflammation associated with spinal arthritis. The friction also causes bone spurs, which are natural growths that can potentially cause spinal narrowing and nerve compression.

Although osteoarthritis is mainly caused by aging, anything that causes undue stress on the spine, or adds to the weight it has to support, can potentially speed up this process. These contributors can include:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Smoking or excessive alcohol consumption
  • High-impact sports, or sports that involve repeated twisting, such as golf
  • Poor posture
  • Using improper lifting technique

Although there is no way to prevent arthritis of the spine completely, taking active measures to promote the long-term health of the spine can decrease the risk that it develops.

Treating arthritis of the spine

If you have been diagnosed with spinal arthritis, form a close partnership with your doctor and commit to conservative treatment. A combination of treatments such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), hot and cold therapy, regular exercise, a healthy diet and therapeutic massage help a large number of patients effectively manage this condition and live an active lifestyle. Spine surgery is almost always considered a last resort treatment, but it can offer the best chance of relief for some if conservative treatments have been exhausted and symptoms remain severe.

Learn more about USA Spine Care’s minimally invasive outpatient spine surgery by reaching out to our dedicated team today. Our board-certified surgeons+ can access the spine to treat conditions such as arthritis of the spine with a less than 1-inch incision.

Find out if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures by asking for your free MRI review.*

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