Arthritis and How it Affects the Spine

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An overview of Arthritis of the spine, how it affects your back as it progresses, as well as finding relief through conservative or surgical treatment.

What is Arthritis of the Spine?

Arthritis of the spine is a progressive disease that worsens as you age or if you consistently continue to injure an area of your spine. When cartilage between two aligning facet joints begins to break down, motion begins to be impaired, leading to mechanical pain and decreased range of motion.

Inflammation in the Facet Joint

When the cartilage begins to degenerate, a reaction occurs causing in the bone underneath causing bone spurs to form. Inflammation caused by bone spurs and other degenerative factors leads to considerable pain when the spine is in motion.

How Arthritis Affects your Back

When you feel pain from arthritis in the spine, a protective reflex occurs, causing muscle that runs along the spine to begin to spasm. If the spasms become powerful enough they could pull the spine out of alignment. Deep tissue massage to relax these muscles helps to bring the spine back into its proper alignment but does not treat the underlying arthritis.

Treating Arthritis in the Spine

There is no cure for arthritis, but there are ways to slow down its progression and relieve some of the pain.  Rest, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine, and exercises that help build supporting muscles are often all that is needed to combat the effects of arthritis in the spine.  Cortisone shots may be delivered directly to the affected joint, helping to more accurately deliver medication to relieve inflammation. With the stiffness and pain that pressure on an arthritic joint can bring, water exercise therapy is often helpful.

Surgery for Arthritis in the Spine

If the cartilage of the joint has worn away to a point where conservative treatments are failing to provide relief, immobilizing the facet joints through a facet fusion will stop pain caused by motion.  A facet joint fusion uses bone harvested from your body, or a donor, to create a form of weld that holds two adjoining joints in place.  Are you a candidate for treatment?  Use our treatment checker tool here in order to and see which one is best for you.