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Osteoarthritis and spinal stenosis

Osteoarthritis is one of the most common causes of spinal stenosis, according to the American College of Rheumatology. Further research shows that osteoarthritis affects up to 30 million Americans, making it the most prevalent form of arthritis. In fact, medical experts predict that, by 2030, 20 percent of all Americans will be at risk for developing osteoarthritis, and, as result, they also will be at risk for developing spinal stenosis.

Generally speaking, osteoarthritis is a condition that comes with age. So, if you’re experiencing the pain and stiffness of aging, or if you have received a diagnosis of osteoarthritis and/or spinal stenosis, it’s important to understand how these conditions occur, how they are related, what their symptoms are and what treatments are available.

Defining osteoarthritis and spinal stenosis

Medical experts define each condition as follows:

  • Osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease that affects the weight-bearing joints, including the hips, knees, feet and the joints of the spine. The word osteoarthritis is derived from “osteo,” which means bone, and “arthros,” which means a joint and its attachments.
  • Spinal stenosis. Stenosis is a narrowing or constriction of the nerve passageways in the spine, often caused by age-related conditions like osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease and herniated discs.

Both conditions are related to general wear of the human body that happens with age. The spine is especially vulnerable because it has to support the weight of the upper body while being able to bend and flex for basic movement. The joints of the spine are protected by cartilage and lubricating synovial fluid to enable smooth motion.

Over time, the protective cartilage between joints can wear out, and bone starts to rub against bone — the resulting inflammation and symptoms are diagnosed as arthritis. The result of osteoarthritis is pain, inflammation and the development of outgrowths known as bone spurs, or osteophytes. Bone spurs can grow on just about any joint, including on the facet joints, which are the joints of the spine. If bone spurs cause a narrowing of the spinal canal or a nerve root exit and put pressure on nerve roots, it would be identified as spinal stenosis.

Treating these conditions

Not everyone ends up being affected by osteoarthritis or spinal stenosis. But, as you age, you may want to consider some lifestyle changes that can slow down the development of either condition. Getting regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, using proper body mechanics and assuming a better posture can promote healthier joints.

If you are diagnosed with spinal arthritis or spinal stenosis, most doctors will initially recommend treating symptoms with conservative, nonsurgical methods. These may include:

  • Nonprescription anti-inflammatory medications
  • Prescription pain medication
  • Back bracing
  • Low-impact exercise such as walking or swimming
  • Weight loss
  • Epidural steroid injections
  • Surgery

If your symptoms from spinal stenosis have become persistent and are restricting your work, lifestyle and ability to spend time with your family, you and your doctor may start to explore surgery. Traditional open back surgery typically involves a large incision, overnight hospitalization and a lengthy recovery time. At USA Spine Care, we offer minimally invasive outpatient procedures that are alternatives to traditional open spine surgery. Our procedures use a less than 1-inch incision to access the spine, helping our patients avoid hospital-associated costs and a lengthy recovery period.^

We would be happy to provide you with a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you are a candidate for outpatient surgery at USA Spine Care.

Learn more today

If you're living with spinal stenosis in the upper spine and searching for relief, reach out to USA Spine Care for help. Our multidisciplinary team is dedicated to helping people develop the right care plan to  reach treatment goals and achieve lasting relief.

Contact us today to learn more. Call toll free 1-866-249-1627.

Spinal Stenosis "Quick Answers"

Depending on the region and severity Spinal stenosis feels like tingling, burning and/or weakness in the hands, arms, neck, lower back or legs. It may also feel like a radiating pain or shooting shock-like pain. Read more in the links below: Spinal Stenosis Spinal Stenosis Overview Defining Spinal Stenosis Researching Spinal Stenosis Learning About Back Stenosis Spinal Stenosis Pathophysiology
The types of spinal stenosis are region based and consist of cervical (neck), thoracic (mid back) and lumbar or lower back. In addition, foraminal stenosis is the narrowing of the foramen. Read more in the links below: Spinal Stenosis of the Neck Cervical Stenosis - Basic Facts Neck Stenosis Causes Neck Stenosis Treatment Central Canal Stenosis Lumbar Spinal Stenosis Spinal Stenosis in the Back
Spinal Stenosis is the narrowing of the spinal canal. This condition, most often located in the Lumbar spine, may be caused by degeneration of the spine, wear and tear, sports injury, & collapsing discs. Read more in the links below. What Causes Spinal Stenosis? Obesity May Lead to a Stenosis Diagnosis Age and its Role in the Development of Spinal Stenosis Spinal Stenosis Causes Identifying Common Causes From Birth Defects to Getting Older Degenerative Conditions Car Accident Injuries
The symptoms of spinal stenosis include tingling or numbness in the extremities, pain and weakness in the neck, back and/or legs. In severe cases bladder, bowel dysfunction/continence. Learn more in the links below: What Are the Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis? Spinal Stenosis Symptoms Spinal Stenosis Diagnosis What Should I Do If I Think I Have Spinal Stenosis? Spinal Stenosis and Hand Pain Recognizing Spinal Stenosis Have You Been Diagnosed? About Your Diagnosis Diagnostic Process Helping Your Physician How a Diagnosis Is Made Arriving at a Diagnosis
Physician specialties that treat spinal stenosis include: Pain management & rehabilitation physicians, spine surgeons, orthopedic specialists & neurosurgeons. Read more about these specialties in the links below: Doctors Who Treat Spinal Stenosis Spinal Decompression Doctors
Patients can expect recovery to last 4-6 weeks in most cases (depending on the complexity of your condition). People who choose minimally invasive spine surgery recover faster and get back to work sooner than those who choose open back surgery. Read more in the links below: Recovery After a Procedure What to Expect Recovery Times

  • Problems from anesthesia.
  • A deep infection in the surgical wound.
  • A skin infection.
  • Blood clots.
  • Nerve injury, including weakness, numbness, or paralysis.
  • Tears in the fibrous tissue that covers the spinal cord and the nerve near the spinal cord. These tears may require more surgery.
  • Trouble passing urine, or loss of bladder or bowel control.
  • Long-term (chronic) pain, which happens after surgery in some cases.
  • The chance that the surgery won't relieve your symptoms. And even if you get better with surgery, there is a chance that you may get new symptoms in the future.
  • Death from problems caused by surgery, but this is rare.

Read more in the links below: Overview of Risk Factors Most Common Risk Factors Obesity & Spinal Stenosis Spinal Stenosis & Arthritis Treating Elderly Patients

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