Osteoarthritis of the spine is a specific type of joint disorder that involves a breakdown of the cartilage of the vertebral discs in the neck and back. Sometimes, this joint condition produces bone spurs that put pressure on the adjacent tissues like nerves and blood vessels, leaving the spine. This can cause pressure symptoms such as weakness and pain in the legs or arms.
Spinal osteoarthritis causes various symptoms. One of the most common symptoms is back pain that often starts in the lower back. Back pain caused by spinal osteoarthritis is often worse when standing or sitting upright ad usually improves when lying down.
During the early stages, you may only feel pain in the morning due to hours of inactivity, and symptoms typically worsen over time. Other signs and symptoms of spinal osteoarthritis include:
- Joint tenderness
- Joint stiffness
- Weakness, tingling sensations or numbness in the extremities
- Limited range of motion
Osteoarthritis of the spinal vertebrae is caused by the slow degeneration of cartilage around vertebral joints in the neck and lower back. The exact cause of this degenerative process is unknown, but some people possess a higher risk for the disease than others. This includes post-menopausal women and people who have experienced spine trauma.
Having an injury can make your cartilage degenerate much faster. Obesity and being overweight can also play a role in the development of osteoarthritis of the spine because extra body pounds put added stress on the spinal joints. Other risk factors that might cause or trigger this condition include:
- Being a female
- Advancing age – above 40
- Family history of spinal or another type of osteoarthritis
- Defective joints or cartilage at birth
- Working in an occupation that involves repetitive stress
Your physician may use some of the following diagnostic procedures to confirm spinal osteoarthritis:
- Medical history
- Physical exam
- Blood tests for infection, tumor and genetic markers or antibodies
- X-rays of the spine to determine and locate the arthritic joint
- MRI, CT scan, and bone scan to rule out other causes or detect nerve and spinal cord involvement
- Testing of the synovial fluid
There are various treatment options available for this joint condition. Most of them depend on the location and the severity of the diseases. These include;
Exercise can be really helpful in relieving pain and improving the symptoms of spinal osteoarthritis. Everyone responds to stretches and exercises differently, and it’s essential to find which exercises can be most helpful for you. If you are not sure which stretches or exercises to do, or have any concerns regarding a specific exercise, speak to your health professionals, such as your orthopedics or a physiotherapist. Some of the best exercises to treat spinal osteoarthritis include;
- Knees to chest
- Back stretch
- Pelvic tilt
- One-leg stand
- Neck turn
- Neck tilt
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation is a safe and effective way of relieving pain and other symptoms that involve sending electrical signals through skin pads attached to the spinal cord. A physiotherapist should be able to give you expert advice about the various TENS machines available. Consult your doctor about TENS machines if you have a pacemaker or low back pain, as this treatment might not be suitable for you.
Massage and Acupuncture
Alongside exercise, studies suggest that massage and acupuncture can provide pain relief. The healthcare providers can give you information and guide you on how to access these treatments.