Inflammation of the joints is called arthritis. This condition affects various joints throughout the body as well as the tissue around the joints and the connective tissue. Over 54 million people in the United States suffer from some type of arthritis. You are probably aware that arthritis commonly affects the hands as well as the hips and knees.
Arthritis also commonly occurs in the spine, which is made up of several joints. When arthritis affects the spine it is often referred to as spinal arthritis. Along with the spine, this type of arthritis also affects the sacroiliac joints, which are located between the spine and the pelvis.
If you would like to know more about this condition, here are the answers to six frequently asked questions about spinal arthritis.
1. Are There Different Types of Spinal Arthritis?
There are over 100 kinds of arthritis, and each of them is characterized by inflammation. Arthritis is either categorized as inflammatory or non-inflammatory. When arthritis is non-inflammatory, it means it is degenerative.
There are three specific types of arthritis that affect the spine. These include:
- Osteoarthritis. Considered non-inflammatory, this type of spinal arthritis usually affects the lower back.
- Rheumatoid arthritis. This autoimmune disorder is considered an inflammatory type of arthritis.
- Spondyloarthritis. Besides affecting the joints, this type of inflammatory arthritis also affects the places where the tendons and ligaments attach to the bones.
Of the three types of spinal arthritis, osteoarthritis is the most common. Osteoarthritis occurs when joint cartilage in the joints of the neck and back breaks down due to repetitive use, wear and tear, and aging.
2. What Are the Symptoms of Spinal Arthritis?
One of the most common symptoms associated with spinal arthritis is pain in the neck and back. However, some people with advanced spinal arthritis might not feel any pain. Other symptoms include stiffness in the spine, along with a loss of flexibility. This pain and stiffness might also occur in other parts of the body.
If the nerves are affected, there may be pain and numbness in the arms and legs. The affected vertebrae can also be swollen and tender. People with spinal arthritis might also experience headaches, weakness, and fatigue. It’s important to note that these symptoms differ from person to person. Symptoms may also depend upon the type of spinal arthritis that a person has.
3. What Causes Spinal Arthritis?
In many cases the cause of spinal arthritis is unknown. Contributing factors usually include wear and tear, age, genetics, excess weight, and autoimmune triggers. People with certain health conditions might also be more susceptible to spinal arthritis. These conditions include diabetes, tuberculosis, and Lyme disease.
4. What Are Some Complications Associated With Spinal Arthritis?
Unfortunately, spinal arthritis can cause complications of the spine. One of these complications includes bones spurs. These bone spurs cause the spinal cord inside the spinal canal to become compressed. This is known as spinal stenosis. Bone spurs can also cause pinched nerves.
Other complications of spinal arthritis include stress fractures, collapsed vertebrae, and a deformity of the spine called kyphosis. This condition is characterized by a curvature of the spine that measures at least 50 degrees. When a person has kyphosis, they have the appearance of a humpback.
5. What Treatment Options Are Available?
The damage caused by spinal arthritis is usually irreversible. This is why treatment focuses on managing the symptoms of the condition. When it comes to finding the right treatment, the following factors must be considered:
- The age of the person with the condition.
- The level of pain.
- The type of spinal arthritis.
- The severity of the arthritis.
One more factor to consider is the person’s health and wellness goals.
To treat the pain and swelling, a physician may prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). A physician might also recommend corticosteroids, which can be given in the form of a pill or an injection. To increase the range of motion in the spine, physical therapy is effective for some people.
Some people can also benefit from making lifestyle changes. These changes include losing weight, improving posture, and quitting smoking. All of these changes can greatly reduce stress on the spine. For those who have tried the above types of treatment, but nothing has worked, surgical options are available as well.
Some of these surgical options include spine fusion surgery or surgical decompression of the nerve roots. In order to remove bone spurs, another surgery called a laminectomy may also be recommended. These types of surgeries are either performed as an open surgery or one that is minimally invasive.
6. Who Can Help with Spinal Arthritis?
If you have spinal arthritis, or any other type of spinal problem, contact the physicians at Southwest Florida Neurosurgical & Rehab Associates. Whether you want to try therapy or a surgery, we will help you find the exact type of treatment that is best for you.