The back and neck have so many components. And when either hurts, it takes a medical detective to figure out the source. One possibility of back pain or discomfort is osteoarthritis of the spine. It’s a quite common form of arthritis that affects the back.
What Is Spinal Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis (OA), also known as degenerative joint disease, is a condition where the protective cartilage wears out. This cartilage is a smooth, elastic tissue that cushions and lubricates the joints. OA can affect different joints in the body and the spine is one of them.
Any of the following are potential causes of spinal osteoarthritis:
- Family history
- Being female
- Birth defect
- Injury or trauma to joint
- Working in a job with repetitive stress
Spinal osteoarthritis typically occurs in the facet joints. This is the cartilage between the bones in the spine. If the pain grows worse or interferes with daily activities, it may be time to call a back and spine doctor.
How Does Spinal Osteoarthritis Cause Back Pain?
As the cartilage breaks down, it can create bone spurs that put pressure on the nerves in the spinal column. This results in pain. Another cause of pain is the cartilage coating in the spinal disc becoming dehydrated. This can cause the discs to narrow and stick out. As they poke out, they put pressure on the joints or spine.
Back pain is the most common pain for osteoarthritis of the spine. It often begins in the lower back. In the earlier stages of OA, the pain may only occur in the morning. Movement helps reduce pain. When people sleep, they don’t move much. Once they wake and move around, the pain tapers off.
Besides pain, OA causes stiffness and loss of range of motion. In some cases, the patient may have tenderness or swelling around the affected joints.
OA is a progressive disease. That means the symptoms worsen over time. These include joint stiffness or tenderness, limited range of motion, and weakness or numbness in the legs or arms. It’s possible to experience tingling in the legs or not to experience any pain.
What Is the Treatment for Osteoarthritis of the Spine?
In short, there is no cure for spinal osteoarthritis. The treatment depends on the patient’s pain level and ability to function. There are conservative spine therapies like physical therapy for neck and back pain.