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Spinal Arthritis

Osteoarthritis of the spine, also called spondylosis, is the age-related degeneration of the spine. This breakdown of the vertebrae is part of the normal aging process, but for some people it can result in debilitating stiffness and pain or lead to more serious spinal conditions.

Spinal arthritis can affect any area of the spine, including the cervical spine (neck), thoracic spine (upper back) or lumbar spine (lower back). It is most commonly seen in the lower back.

Symptoms of spinal arthritis include:

  • Stiffness in the neck or back
  • Pain in the neck or back
  • Weakness or numbness in the legs or arms

Some people with spinal arthritis may avoid activities they used to enjoy because of discomfort or pain. This can lead to a sense of helplessness or even depression. When pain and stiffness due to arthritis in your spine begins to interfere with day-to-day activities, it’s time to see a spine specialist.

What causes osteoarthritis of the spine?

 

The pain and stiffness associated with osteoarthritis of the spine are due to the breakdown of cartilage between the facet joints of the vertebrae. This type of pain is sometimes referred to as facet joint pain.

When the cartilage between the facet joints breaks down, normal movement of the vertebrae can cause irritation, inflammation, further damage and the development of bone spurs  (osteophytes).

While the creation of bone spurs may be the body’s way of attempting to stabilize the spine, these bony outgrowths can press on or irritate nerves, worsen stiffness, and eventually lead to a narrowing of the spinal canal, called spinal stenosis.

Who gets spinal arthritis?

 

Spinal arthritis can happen to anyone as we age, but certain medical conditions and traumas to the spine can accelerate the process.

Scoliosis, which is an abnormal curvature of the spine, can speed the age-related degeneration of the spine. Whiplash injuries to the neck, which are often the result of car accidents, can also accelerate the development of osteoarthritis in the cervical spine.

 

Treatment for spinal arthritis

There are many options available for the treatment of spinal arthritis, including medications, physical therapy, injections and radiofrequency rhizotomy. Most patients with spinal arthritis are able to find relief with these alternatives to surgery.

For severe degeneration, spinal fusion surgery may be necessary. Dr. Baig is skilled in performing the most advanced and least invasive spinal fusion procedures available with the goal always being to relieve pain, improve mobility and give you back your quality of life. He will only perform surgery if he is confident it will provide significant results.