Arthritis of the Spine

Back Pain – Arthritis in the Spine

There are many types of arthritis and most of them can cause arthritis in the spinal joints.  Usually it is the joints of the lower back that are affected in fact arthritis is one of the most common causes of lower back pain. Approximately 1 in 10 people over 65 will become disabled due to osteoarthritis.

Many people who have arthritis in other parts of their body have arthritis in their spine also.  Due to the arthritis they most often have another spinal disease or condition, such as degenerative disk disease or spinal stenosis.  These conditions place an extra burden on the joints which can lead to spinal damage and increased arthritic pain.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis affecting many people as they grow older.  Osteoarthritis is caused when the bones gradually lose mass by mineral resorption that exceeds bone formation.  This results in brittle, porous, thinning bones and an increased potential of fracture.  This depletion is known as osteoporosis which means “porous bones”.  Osteoporosis develops over long periods of time and eventually causes a loss in height, kyphosis hump, a shorter trunk and decreased thorax movement which can lead to respiratory problems.

Symptoms of Osteoarthritis in the spine include:

  • Stiffness and pain in the neck and/or lower back.
  • Weakness or numbness in the arms
  • Weakness or numbness in the legs
  • Compaction of the spinal column

Once osteoporosis is diagnosed, treatment is aimed at prevention of further deterioration in the bone mass and treating the disease process which may have contributed to the osteoporosis in the first place.  These treatments may include: analgesics, heat, massage, orthopedic support and therapy and surgery is often required, if a fracture has occurred or there is a significant loss of bone.  Women often benefit from estrogen replacement therapy which helps to slow the bone loss, prevent fractures and improve calcium absorption.

Other Types of Arthritis of the Spine:

Rheumatoid arthritis is an auto immune disease in which the joints become inflamed and painful.  Rheumatoid arthritis has a genetic factor, but the cause is still unknown.  Women are 3 times more likely to be affected than men.  Rheumatoid arthritis affects the upper spine, the joints along the neck and along the feet and hands.

Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of arthritis which involves the spine.  This is also an auto immune disease but it affects the spine more than the joints.  Ankylosing spondylitis affects more men than women and usually begins before the age of 40.  This form of arthritis causes back pain and stiffness which can affect the whole spine, accompanied by fatigue.  In some cases there is also an inflammation of the eyes.  The pain may be relieved by movement and become worse when resting.  The usual course of treatment for this form of arthritis in the spine involves physical therapy, careful exercises and an effective pain reliever.

Always, if you notice any changes or an increase in pain, notify your medical professional immediately.  Arthritis of the spine can be a painful, debilitating disease, but with your medical professional’s diagnosis and expert medical care, it doesn’t have to take over your life.

Barbara Lucore

I have been a nurse for 15+ years and as a nurse I understand how to prevent back strain and pain. The correct ways to lift objects, the causes of back pain, treatments available, the exercises to reduce or prevent back pain and the proper ways to move without strain or injury to your back.