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
Low-impact exercise such as walking or swimming
Epidural steroid injections
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.
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 ProcedureWhat to ExpectRecovery Times
Problems from anesthesia.
A deep infection in the surgical wound.
A skin infection.
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.
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^Results are typical, but not guaranteed, each patients experience with spine surgery will differ.
For more information, visit usaspinecare.com/results. The information contained on this website is for educational purposes only, and is not intended to serve as a replacement for a medical diagnosis.
*Our MRI review is an informational review of the MRI report that you provide to us and is not a form of diagnosis. A diagnosis and a final determination of whether you may benefit from treatment at USA Spine Care can only be made after you have been physically examined by our medical professionals at USA Spine Care. The MRI review has no value and will not be billed.