Spinal Arthritis Basics

Spine deformities, inflammation and pain are a typical sign of spinal arthritis. Experts suggest that balancing recreational and occupational activities like quitting cigars or cigarettes or controlling weight can itself help in reducing pressure on the spine. Explore the benefits of other treatments available for curing spinal arthritis in the article below.

Arthritis is a disease marked by pain, fragility and inflammation of joints. When it targets the spine expect everything to come to a standstill. Millions of people are affected by spinal arthritis today. Spinal arthritis is also referred to as Spondylosis or Spinal Osteoarthritis. This disease is typical of collapsing condition of the spinal cord. The common cause for such a weakening condition is the improper functioning and structure of the spine.

What is spinal arthritis?

Arthritis in the spinal region is the main cause of back pains. It is the breakdown of the cartilages that cushion the aligning facet joints in the posterior or back portion of the spine. The facet joints are also called vertebral or zygophyseal joints that gradually swell up as a result of strain, aging, etc. The deteriorating cartilages cause frictional pain between the facet joints.

Standing, sitting or even walking becomes difficult with the wearing down of the cartilages between the facet joints. Sometimes, bone spurs or osteophytes form at the facet joints. These developments are irregular bone growths which occur at the facet joints. Such a condition will not only cause direct pain to the back but will also hinder nerve passing through the spinal structure.

Anatomical division of spinal osteoarthritis:

Osteoarthritis in the spine can be divided into the following categories:

  • Neck Osteoarthritis: This is also called cervical spondylosis. It causes pain and stiffness at the head, arms, shoulder, upper spine and neck.
  • Lower Back Osteoarthritis: This is also called lumbosacral arthritis. This produces pain and stiffness in the lower spine region and at the sacroiliac joint that lies between the pelvis and spine.

Causes of spinal arthritis:

Aging is considered to be the most common and observable cause of arthritis in the spine. Researchers however claim that there are other reasons that can also contribute to spinal dysfunctions. Other causes of spinal arthritis include the following:

  • Aging
  • Post menopausal conditions among women
  • Overweight
  • Genetic factors
  • A result of an injury or weakened immune system
  • The presence of other diseases like gout or rheumatoid arthritis

Symptoms of spinal arthritis:

Arthritis in the spine has the following visible symptoms:

  • Back pain
  • Morning stiffness
  • Weakness and numbness in the neck
  • Aching shoulders, hips, knees or heels
  • Frictional pain at joints
  • Aching arms and legs
  • Reduced flexibility
  • Any spinal deformity

Diagnosis or tests for spinal arthritis:

The key to managing pain, stiffness and deformity of the spinal cord is to follow the procedure of accurate diagnosis and effective treatment. Diagnosis for spinal arthritis includes:

  • Blood sample tests to detect the type of arthritis
  • X-rays to detect any spinal deformity or non-alignment
  • Magnetic resonance imaging that gives a three dimensional view of the spinal cord
  • A computerized axial tomography scan that determines the shape and size of the spinal cord
  • A bone scan to detect arthritis
  • A myelogram to detect tumors, bone spurs, etc or any strain caused to the spinal cord, nerves, etc

Treatment for spinal arthritis:

When the underlying cause of spinal osteoarthritis is unknown, it is referred to as primary osteoarthritis. This condition is characterized by a deterioration of the cartilages and the synovial fluid at the facet joints. Prolonged pressure and strain to the spine can cause inflammation, swelling, pain and stiffness to the entire back starting from the neck to the heels.

When an osteoarthritis condition is confirmed, it is referred to as secondary osteoarthritis. This condition is a result of an already existing disease like trauma, obesity or surgery at joints.

Treatments available for preventing further joint damage at the spine include:

  • Exercise
  • Controlling weight
  • Nutrition that includes essential vitamins, minerals and calcium
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Topical analgesics, creams and ointments
  • Injections that target a facet joint
  • Surgery to remove bone spurs
  • A spinal fusion surgery
  • Hot or cold compressors
  • Avoid smoking as it prevents deterioration of discs caused by reducing oxygen through smoking at the affected joints

Benefits of exercise for spinal arthritis:

Experts suggest that exercise is the best option for strengthening and preventing the onset of spinal arthritis. They help improve conditions in the following ways:

  • Increase flexibility and range of motion
  • Weight control
  • Strengthens bones, joints and muscles
  • Reduces pain and swelling

Spinal arthritis is a painful and limiting experience. Consult a doctor for the slightest of discomfort or pain felt on your spine. Never have medicines on a personal account. Instead seek the advice and recommendation of a doctor. A nutritious diet with essential vitamins and calcium coupled with an exercise regime can help you prevent spinal arthritis. So start now.