As we age, many people experience back pain and stiffness. Spine arthritis, or osteoarthritis, is a common cause. At St. Joseph’s Hospital, we offer expert treatments to help relieve your pain and improve your quality of life.
What is Spine Arthritis?
Arthritis is a joint disease that wears down cartilage – the smooth tissue that cushions our joints so bones can easily move against each other. In the spine, cartilage is found between the 30-plus vertebrae that make up the spinal column.
As the cartilage breaks down, it causes inflammation, swelling and pain. It can even produce bone spurs, also called osteophytes, which are tiny, abnormal growths that can put pressure on nerves and cause pain.
What Causes Spine Arthritis?
Osteoarthritis is often a symptom of age, but in many people, the disease can be linked to a combination of factors. Common causes include:
- Injury or trauma
- Family history of osteoarthritis or congenital defects of the spine
- Poor posture or work-related stress on the spine
- Excessive weight that puts stress on the spine
Symptoms of Spine Arthritis
Symptoms depend on the severity of your arthritis. Some people experience debilitating pain, while others only have minor discomfort. Common symptoms include:
- Stiffness and pain in the back and neck
- Weakness or numbness in legs or arms
- Loss of flexibility, such as when bending
How is Spine Arthritis Diagnosed?
If your doctor suspects you may have osteoarthritis, he or she will likely recommend more than one test to confirm the diagnosis. In addition to a physical exam medical history, your doctor may order one or more of the following tests:
- X-ray: Imaging test that takes pictures of your bones to find signs of damage
- MRI: Imaging test that takes pictures of your spinal disc and nerves
- Blood test: Rules out other causes of back pain
Treatments for Spine Arthritis
There are many treatment options available to manage the pain caused by spine arthritis without surgery. However, in some patients, surgery will be necessary if these medications and therapies prove ineffective or stop working. At St. Joseph’s Hospital, you get access to an expert spine surgery team, with experience in the latest techniques for the best outcome possible.
Treatments for spine arthritis include:
- Medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) include over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen, which can be effective to control back pain. Your doctor may also prescribe muscle relaxers.
- Epidural steroid injections: These injections treat your pain right at the source. We inject the medication into your spine during a quick, outpatient procedure, and effects can last for months.
- Surgery: This procedure fuses together a series of vertebrae to immobilize them, preventing them from pinching nerves and causing pain.
Learn more about spinal fusion surgery at St. Joseph’s.
For more information or for a physician referral, please call (813) 644-4322.