Osteoarthritis Of The Spine
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of spinal arthritis. It usually affects the lower back and develops through wear and tear. As the cartilage between the joints slowly breaks down, it leads to inflammation and pain. Because the pain is from mechanical damage, it is typically more noticeable when you bend or twist your back. Past back injuries may also contribute to the development of degenerative arthritis of the spine.
Osteoarthritis of the spine usually affects the facet joints between the vertebrae. It is also known as facet joint arthritis, facet joint syndrome and facet disease. In some cases, degeneration of the spinal discs may contribute to facet joint arthritis. As discs between the vertebrae become thinner, more pressure is transferred to the facet joints. This leads to more friction and more damage to the cartilage.
When these degenerative changes occur in the neck, this condition is called cervical spondylosis. Arthritis in the neck doesnât always cause pain, and many people have no noticeable symptoms.
Symptoms Of Arthritis In Lower Back And Hips
When we think of arthritis, we think of joint issues in senior people. While senior citizens do suffer the most from arthritis, it isnt exclusive to any age group, nor is it a single condition describing a specific type of joint related issue. There are several different types of arthritis that affect different age groups.
If you are someone who experiences chronic joint pain, you should be aware of arthritis. In this article, well try to give you a detailed description of arthritis, and its symptoms in lower back and hips.
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Related Conditions That Cause Tingling Numbness Or Weakness
Osteoarthritis can stimulate muscle spasms, the growth of bone spurs, or other degenerative changes that cause the spinal cord or its nerve roots to become compressed. When the spinal cord or a nerve root is squeezed, the entire area it travels to can be affected.
Osteoarthritic-related conditions that affect the spinal nerve roots include:
- Lumbar spinal stenosis, which occurs when the size of the bony opening for a spinal nerve root in the lower back is reduced. Lumbar spinal stenosis causes the affected nerve root to become irritated or compressed as it exits the spine. A person may experience tingling, weakness, or numbness that radiates from the lower back into the buttocks, thighs, leg, and/or foot. When nerve roots between L4 to S3 in the lumbar spine are affected, the symptoms and signs are often referred to as sciatica.
Read When to See a Surgeon for Spinal Stenosis on Spine-health.com
In most but not all cases, the symptoms of spinal osteoarthritis come and go, becoming worse and more frequent over months or years. If back pain comes on suddenly, it is more likely to be caused by a strained muscle or other trauma or condition, and not by spine osteoarthritis.
Early recognition of symptoms and appropriate treatment can dramatically slow or eliminate the progression of osteoarthritis symptoms.
Read more about Osteoarthritis Symptoms and Signs
How Does Spinal Arthritis Cause Pain
When a vertebral facet joint moves, healthy cartilage ensures the facets glide against one another. Spinal osteoarthritis begins with facet cartilage degeneration. This cartilage degeneration doesnt necessarily cause back pain, but it can lead to joint changes that cause pain:
- When facet cartilage is damaged or missing, the vertebral facets rub or grate against one another, resulting in excess friction and more joint damage.
- The joint damage and friction lead to inflammation, which may cause pain and stiffness.
- Pain signals travel through the affected facet joint.
- These signals can cause the back muscles to go into spasm.
- The combination of facet joint inflammation and muscle spasm can cause pain and stiffness.
Most cases of spinal osteoarthritis develop gradually. Pain can range from dull to severe and is often accompanied by stiffness.
Spinal arthritis in the low back If you have osteoarthritis in your low back, you may first notice achy low back pain after exercising or doing physical work. You may also feel pain in areas surrounding your groin, buttocks, or back of your thighs.
Spinal arthritis in the neck If you have osteoarthritis in your neck, you may notice pain and stiffness in the neck. Pain may also be felt in the shoulders, and upper and middle back. You may experience frequent headaches.
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Who Gets Osteoarthritis Of The Spine
In general, osteoarthritis happens as people get older. Younger people may get it from one of several different causes:
- injury or trauma to a joint
- a genetic defect involving cartilage
For people younger than age 45, osteoarthritis is more common among men. After age 45, osteoarthritis is more common among women. Osteoarthritis occurs more often among people who are overweight. It also occurs more frequently in those who have jobs or do sports that put repetitive stress on certain joints.
Use Heat And Cold Therapy
A hot or cold compress which works better for pain relief? The answer is they both have their place.
Applying heat to the area of the back that hurts provides soothing pain relief for a lot of people. You can choose dry heat applied directly to the sore spots.
Or you can try moist heat, like a warm, moist towel or even a warm bath. The Healthy Back Institute offers a state-of-the-art heating pad thats been shown to melt away pain and restore mobility in just 10 minutes.
On the other hand, using ice packs or a cold compress can help numb arthritis pain.You can alternate between the two, but feel free to use whatever method provides you with the most pain relief.
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How Is Osteoarthritis Of The Spine Treated
In most cases, treatment of spinal osteoarthritis is geared toward relieving the symptoms of pain and increasing a person’s ability to function. The goal is to have a healthy lifestyle.
Initial treatment may include losing weight if needed and then, for everyone, maintaining a healthy weight. It may also include exercise. Besides helping with weight management, exercise can also help:
- increase flexibility
- improve blood flow
- make it easier to do daily tasks
- Strengthening exercises. These exercises seek to make muscles that support the joints stronger. They work through resistance with the use of weights or rubber bands.
- Aerobic exercises. These are exercises that make the heart and circulatory system stronger.
- Range-of-motion exercises. These exercises increase the bodyâs flexibility.
Including rest periods in the overall treatment plan is necessary. But bed rest, splints, bracing, or traction for long periods of time is not recommended.
There are non-drug treatments available for osteoarthritis, including:
Rheumatoid Arthritis Of The Spine
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder, meaning that the immune system turns on itself. It attacks the synovium â the lining of the joints. Although rheumatoid arthritis is more common in other joints, it can also affect the spine, specifically the cervical region . Rheumatoid arthritis of the spine is not caused by wear and tear, so itâs considered an inflammatory arthritis. It may cause back pain even when these joints are not in use. It tends to affect women more than men.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Sciatica
The symptoms of sciatica include:
- Moderate to severe pain in lower back, buttock and down your leg.
- Numbness or weakness in your lower back, buttock, leg or feet.
- Pain that worsens with movement loss of movement.
- Pins and needles feeling in your legs, toes or feet.
- Loss of bowel and bladder control .
How To Diagnose Oa Of The Spine
Before diagnosing OA of the spine, your doctor may ask about your family history of the disease and complete a physical examination to check for tenderness, limited range of motion, and swelling in your back. Tell your doctor about any other symptoms you might have, such as numbness or weakness.
Imaging tests are commonly used to diagnose OA of the spine. These tests can check for bone damage, bone spurs, and loss of cartilage in your joints. Your doctor may order an X-ray or an MRI, which creates a detailed picture of your spine.
Since osteoarthritis of the spine has symptoms that are similar to other conditions, your doctor may also take your blood to rule out other diseases.
Some doctors order a joint fluid analysis. In this procedure, your doctor inserts a needle in the affected joint to collect a fluid sample. This test can determine whether symptoms are caused by OA, gout, or an infection.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Oa Of The Spine
OA of the spine causes various symptoms. The most common is back pain. Pain often starts in the lower back. In the early stages of the disease, you may only have pain in the mornings due to hours of inactivity. Since this is a progressive disease, symptoms typically worsen over time. Other symptoms of osteoarthritis of the spine include:
- joint tenderness
- limited range of motion
- weakness or numbness in the legs or arms, tingling in the legs
Back pain caused by OA of the spine is often worse when sitting upright or standing. It usually improves when lying down. Some people who have osteoarthritis of the spine dont have any symptoms.
What Causes Spinal Arthritis
In a word: imbalances.
These imbalances can occur in your stress levels, hormone levels and nutritional levels.
But most of the time when we talk about imbalances, were talking about muscle imbalances.
These muscle imbalances can negatively affect your posture, which can lead to neck and back pain.
The causes may vary from person to person, but common factors include degeneration in the bones, along with calcium build-up.
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Sometimes, injuries or past spine surgery can lead to the onset of spinal arthritis.
Nerves become pinched or compacted, causing severe pain or numbness in the affected areas.
Many people who suffer from spinal arthritis of the spine will also be affected by herniated discs and bone spurs.
These bone spurs can put pressure on the nerves of your spinal column, which may cause weakness and pain in your arms and legs.
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Weight Loss Exercise And Diet
Think about the extra pounds people carry every day due to their being overweight. This puts added pressure and strain on the back and stomach muscles, causing those muscles to stretch and weaken. Weak back and stomach muscles cannot support the back properly. Poor posture can shift your body out of balance. This forces only a few muscles and joints to do all the work. Without proper exercise, muscles become weak and tire easily. Exercise is necessary to keep the back strong and limber. A good conditioning exercise program led by a trained instructor can be particularly helpful. An effective program includes a warm-up period about 30 minutes of aerobic activity isolated muscle group work and a cool-down period. Over a period of time, the rewards of regular aerobic workouts can include a slimmer waistline and healthier back.
Surgery For Spinal Arthritis
Surgery may be recommended for spinal arthritis if other treatments donât sufficiently relieve pain. The goals of the surgery may include:
Stabilizing the spine by fusing several segments together in a procedure called spinal fusion
These surgeries can be performed as open procedures or with a minimally invasive approach. There are pros and cons to each method. The surgeon will review and discuss the options before the operation.
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What Are Sciatica Causes
Sciatica is caused by irritation of the sciatic nerve. Usually, there is no specific injury that is related to the onset of sciatica. Occasionally, the pain will suddenly begin after lifting something heavy or moving quickly. The following are causes of sciatica:
- A herniated disc : Disc herniation is the most common cause of sciatica. When a disc herniates near the spinal nerve roots that form the sciatic nerve, it can cause pressure on the nerve, or irritation, which results in the symptoms of sciatica.
- Discs are the cushions between the bones in the back. They act like “shock absorbers” when we move, bend, and lift. They are the size and shape of checkers.
- There is a tough ring around the outside of each disc and a thick jellylike center inside . If the outer edge of the disc ruptures, the center can push through and put pressure on the sciatic nerve, leading to the pain of sciatica .
Back Problems That Cause Leg Pain
Almost everyone at some point in their life develops lower back pain. This part of your back includes your lumbar spine, which is responsible for supporting much of your upper body weight.
Aging and the stress of your body weight leads to degeneration of the components that make up your spine, including the discs, ligaments, cartilage, and vertebrae. These degenerative changes are often the source of lower back pain, as well as your leg pain. Back problems that cause leg pain include:
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What You Should Know About Leg Pain
If you experience leg pain, the cause may at first be unclear. Typically, people assume pain is related to injury, even when they cannot point to a specific incident, such as a fall or an accident. Several diseases and conditions can cause leg pain, including arthritis. It’s important to be diagnosed by a healthcare provider, especially when leg pain persists or worsens. Appropriate treatment depends on an accurate diagnosis.
Leg Pain From Hip Disorders
When the hip is affected, you may have groin pain on the affected side, reduced range of motion of the hip, thigh pain, knee pain, or buttocks pain. The pain usually does not go down below the knee, and there is no associated numbness or tingling. You may feel more pain when walking or standing, and the pain improves with rest. You may sense a limited range of motion when trying to get out of the car, chair or bed. Occasionally, pain in the hip could be secondary to inflammation of a hip bursa. This can happen if you have tight hip abductor muscles, difference in leg length or hip arthritis. Hip pain can also be caused by something more serious but less common, like fractures, tumors, infection or avascular necrosis.
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Typical Symptoms Of Spinal Osteoarthritis
The full range of symptoms that typically occur with spinal arthritis includes some combination of the following:
- The back and/or neck stiffness and pain tend to be worse in the morning , often called “first movement pain.”
- The pain will usually subside to a more tolerable level over the course of the day as the person carries on his or her activities.
- Pain and stiffness tend to get worse again in the evening.
- Pain that disrupts sleep is often an indicator of osteoarthritis.
- Swelling and warmth in one or more joints, particularly during weather changes .
- Localized tenderness when the joint or affected area of the spine is pressed.
- Steady or intermittent pain in a joint, which is often described as an aching type of pain. The pain may be aggravated by motion.
- Loss of flexibility of a joint, such as inability to bend and pick something off the floor.
- A crunching feeling or sound of bone rubbing on bone when the joint is moved , particularly notable in the neck.
- A sensation of pinching, tingling, or numbness in a nerve or the spinal cord, which can occur when bone spurs form at the edge of the joints of the spine and irritate the nerves.
What Are The Causes
Sciatica can be caused by a number of conditions that irritate or compress the sciatic nerve:
- Piriformis syndrome: Tightening or spasm of the piriformis muscle can compress the nerve.
- Trauma: A sports injury or fall can fracture the spine or tear a muscle and damage nerves.
- Herniated disc: The gel-like center of a spinal disc can bulge or rupture through a weak area in the disc wall and compress nerves.
- Stenosis: Narrowing of the bony canals in the spine can compress the spinal cord and nerves.
- Osteoarthritis: As discs naturally age they dry out and shrink. Small tears in the disc wall can be painful. Bone spurs can form. The facet joints enlarge and ligaments thicken.
- Spondylolisthesis: A weakness or stress fracture in the facet joints can allow a vertebra to slip out of position and pinch the nerves.
Leg pain can also be caused by a joint problem in the hip or sacroiliac joint. This type of referred pain is quite common, but is not sciatica.
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