Degenerative arthritis of the spine is also known as osteoarthritis or spondylosis. Osteoarthritis is extremely common, though women and individuals older than 50 years of age are especially vulnerable. It is characterized as a cartilage breakdown in the joints. In the spine, degenerative arthritis is the wearing away of cartilage on the facet joints, which are the hinge-like connectors between vertebrae that we depend on for a wide range of neck and back movements.
Degenerative arthritis of the spine should not be confused with spinal rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis causes an inflammation in the facet joints and is an autoimmune disease, which means that the body’s immune system attacks otherwise healthy tissues. In cases of rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system attacks synovial membranes. Synovial membranes, or synovium, produce lubricants to keep joints — including facet joints — moving fluidly.
With the degenerative form of spinal arthritis, however, the facet joints lose their smooth cartilage covering. Devoid of this covering, bone is allowed to rub directly against bone, which prompts your body to produce extra bony protrusions called bone spurs or osteophytes. The spurs themselves do not hurt, but they can impinge on the spinal cord or nerve roots, causing pain and other nerve dysfunction.
Symptoms of degenerative spine disorders can include loss of feeling, a “pins-and-needles” sensation, weakness and radiating pain. When you are dealing with degenerative arthritis of the spine, the symptoms can be expanded and include:
- Ankylosis, or abnormal stiffness in joints
- Warm pain
- Throbbing and tenderness
- Limited range of motion
- Diminished flexibility
When you talk with your physician about degenerative spine symptoms, try to be as accurate as possible when describing the nature and location, such as the thoracic spine, of your symptoms. For instance, if you feel radicular pain coursing through your legs, chances are you’re dealing with a degenerative lumbar spine disorder (in the lower back), whereas a warm pain or throbbing in the neck would indicate a degenerative cervical spine disorder (in the upper spine).
If these conditions are limiting your ability to live life to the fullest, let the experts at USA Spine Care tell you more about our state-of-the-art, minimally-invasive procedures. Our procedures are performed on an outpatient basis and are specifically designed to treat degenerative spine conditions at the source of the pain. Contact USA Spine Care today to find out more and receive a review of your MRI or CT scan.
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