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What is Arthritis of the Spine?

arthritis of spine in older womanAre you experiencing pain and stiffness in your back and neck when you first get up, but then they tend to loosen up as the day goes on? Are you trying to figure out if it’s worth getting it checked out? Here’s what you may be dealing with.

Arthritis of the spine, also known as spinal arthritis or spondyloarthritis, is an inflammation of the joints in the spine. This condition can lead to pain and stiffness in the back or neck. It is most often caused by wear and tear on the joints, a process known as osteoarthritis.

Arthritis of the spine shares many characteristics with typical arthritis, which primarily affects joints throughout the body.

Here are the commonalities between spinal arthritis and general arthritis:

  1. Inflammation: Both types involve inflammation of the joints, which can cause pain, swelling, and stiffness.
  2. Degeneration: Arthritis typically involves the degeneration of cartilage, the cushioning material at the joint surfaces. In the spine, this degeneration affects the cartilage between the vertebrae, similar to how it impacts the cartilage in other joints like the knees or hips.
  3. Pain and Stiffness: Pain and stiffness in the affected joints are hallmarks of any arthritic condition. In spinal arthritis and other forms of arthritis, these symptoms might worsen after periods of inactivity or during certain movements.
  4. Age and Wear and Tear: Both conditions are often associated with aging and the cumulative wear and tear on the joints over the years. This is particularly evident in osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis.
  5. Chronic Nature: Arthritis is typically a chronic condition, meaning it can persist for a long time and often progressively worsens without appropriate management.
  6. Treatment Approaches: The approaches to managing pain, improving function, and slowing progression are similar in spinal arthritis and other forms of arthritis. These can include medications (like NSAIDs), physical therapy, lifestyle changes (such as exercise and weight

Here are the key points to understand about arthritis of the spine:

  • Types: The most common form affecting the spine is osteoarthritis, which deteriorates the cartilage between the joint surfaces. Other forms include rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis, which have different mechanisms but also affect the spine.
  • Symptoms: Typical symptoms include persistent pain and stiffness in the back or neck, especially in the morning or after periods of inactivity. The pain might lessen with movement as the day progresses.
  • Causes: Factors contributing to this include aging, wear and tear from daily activities, obesity, previous injury to the spine, and genetic predisposition.
  • Diagnosis: It is typically diagnosed through clinical evaluation, which may include a physical exam, patient history, and imaging tests such as X-rays, MRI, or CT scans to assess the extent of joint damage and inflammation.
  • Treatment: While there is no cure for arthritis of the spine, treatments aim to reduce pain and maintain mobility. These may include medications like pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs, physical therapy, lifestyle changes such as weight loss and exercise, and in severe cases, surgery.

If you’re concerned about pain or stiffness in your spine and neck, call for a consultation.

*Please Note: Information on this site or any recommended sites should not be used as a diagnosis or a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.
Blue Distinction Center for Spine Surgery