The Universal Guide To Spondylosis: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know Straight From The Experts
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Spondylosis can feel like a metaphor for the aging process. That slow march of wear and tear is happening to us all, whether we feel it or see it. One day you look in the mirror and think, Whered all this salt-and-pepper hair come from? Spondylosis can be sneaky like that, except instead of grey hairs you get back pain. Yay.
Spondylosis is a degenerative condition that may worsen as a person grows older. It can affect any region of the spine. Photo Source: 123RF.com.Technically, spondylosis is a form of arthritisspinal osteoarthritis to be exact. We tend to think of arthritis as something you get in your hands and knees, but the spine, and all of its bones and joints, can fall victim to its grip as well. And yes, while its most likely to affect people in the 60+ range, patients typically report their first symptoms between the ages of 20 and 50 years .
More than 80% of people older than 40 years show evidence of the condition on X-rays. Lumbar, or lower back, spondylosis is especially common in people older than 40 years. According to the Arthritis Foundation, spinal osteoarthritis may affect as many as 75% of everyone over the age of 60.
Disk Degeneration And Bone Spurs
As the disks in the spine age, they lose height and begin to bulge. They also lose water content, begin to dry out and weaken. This problem causes settling, or collapse, of the disk spaces and loss of disk space height. Eventually, the cushioning qualities of the disks begins to decrease.
As the facet joints experience increased pressure, they also begin to degenerate and develop arthritis, similar to what may occur in the hip or knee joint. The smooth, slippery articular cartilage that covers and protects the joints wears away.
If the cartilage wears away completely, it can result in bone rubbing on bone. To make up for the lost cartilage, your body may respond by growing new bone in your facet joints to help support the vertebrae. Over time, this bone overgrowth called bone spurs may narrow the space for the nerves and spinal cord to pass through . Bone spurs may also lead to decreased range of motion in the spine.
Side view of a healthy cervical vertebra and disk. A disk that has degenerated and collapsed.
How Will Osteoarthritis Of The Spine Affect Me
The first sign of osteoarthritis of the spine is usually pain and stiffness in your back or neck.
The condition can be difficult to diagnose, as it can be hard to tell which symptoms are linked to osteoarthritis. It can even be hard to spot back and neck problems on x-rays of the spine, as changes caused by osteoarthritis dont always cause pain.
Symptoms of osteoarthritis of the spine will vary from person to person. The most common symptoms are:
- pain in your back or neck
- stiffness, especially first thing in the morning or after resting
- crunching or grinding noises when moving your back or neck.
People who have osteoarthritis in their neck might also have headaches or feel pain in their shoulders and arms.
Its normal for the cartilage in our joints to get thinner, especially as we get older. But in people with osteoarthritis, its the bodys normal process of repairing damage to joints that can cause pain and stiffness.
When the body starts to repair damage to cartilage, the whole joint can be affected including the bone, tendons and ligaments.
During the repair process, the edges of the bones in the spine can grow outwards, forming bony spurs. These are known as osteophytes . The discs between the vertebrae in the spine can also become thinner.
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What Causes Ankylosing Spondylitis
About 95% of people who have AS have a variation of the human leukocyte antigen-B gene . This changed, or mutated, gene produces a protein called HLA-B27 that increases disease risk. However, most people with a mutated HLA-B gene dont get AS. In fact, 80% of children who inherit the mutated gene from a parent with AS dont develop the disease. More than 60 genes have been linked to the condition.
Having one of these conditions may also increase your risk:
Spine Fusion Surgery For Osteoarthritis
For spinal arthritis, the only effective surgical treatment is |spine fusion surgery to stop the motion at the painful joint. Spinal fusion may also be referred to as “arthrodesis.”
Currently, total disc replacement surgery is contraindicated for patients with osteoarthritis of the facet joints, as artificial discs maintain motion through the painful degenerated facet joints. Artificial disc surgery is only indicated for those individuals with degenerative disc disease without facet joint pathology, and it should be considered an experimental procedure at this point.
Because motion in the joint is causing the pain, the goal of a fusion surgery is to stop the motion and thereby stop the pain. However, spine fusion surgery is generally not recommended for osteoarthritis of the spine since the arthritic condition tends to affect multiple vertebral levels in the spine and multi-level fusions are generally not advisable.
The spine is designed to move, and if motion is stopped along multiple adjacent levels of the spine, the significantly limited motion in the spine can in and of itself stress the spine and potentially cause pain. In cases where osteoarthritis of the facet joint leads to spinal instability , fusion surgery can be considered to stop the instability for that particular joint. This generally occurs at the L4-L5 segment, and sometimes at L3-L4, levels of the lower back.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Spinal Arthritis
Symptoms of spinal arthritis may differ from person to person. In general, they may include:
Back and neck pain, especially in the lower back
Stiffness and loss of flexibility in the spine, such as being unable to straighten your back or turn your neck
Swelling and tenderness over the affected vertebrae
Feeling of grinding when moving the spine
Pain, swelling and stiffness in other areas of the body
Whole-body weakness and fatigue
Pain and numbness in your arms or legs if the nerves are affected
Although back pain is a common symptom, not all people have it, even those with advanced spinal arthritis. On the other hand, some may experience pain even before arthritis can be seen on an X-ray.
In certain types of spondyloarthritis, eye inflammation may occur, causing pain, watery eyes and blurred vision.
Homeopathic Medicines For Ankylosing Spondylitis
- Rhus Tox: When the patient has sacral/lumbar area pain that is worse at rest, with sitting, or after a period of inactivity, Rhus Tox is the first medicine of choice for homeopathic treatment for ankylosing spondylitis. The pain travels down the legs and into the foot. Walking or any other activity/motion provides pain relief.
- Aesculus: This is recommended for patients who have severe pain and stiffness in their low back and hips. The pain is constant, and there is discomfort when trying to get out of a chair, stooping, or walking, all of which require more effort. There is a fear that the legs will give way, increasing resistance while walking.
- Kali Carb: Kali carb is a valuable remedy to use when your back is extremely weak and painful. Walking back gives out, and the patient is forced to sit down. The back is extremely painful and stiff, and it appears to be broken. The pain in the lower back may spread to the thighs or ascend to the upper back.
Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of arthritis that affects the spine predominantly. It is a chronic illness with no known cure. Exercise, medications, and lifestyle changes, on the other hand, can help manage symptoms and allow you to live a long and productive life. If you or someone you know is suffering from AS symptoms, consider trying homeopathy. You can consult a homeopath if you want to talk about Ankylosing Spondylitis treatment.
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Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation
This type of non-invasive therapy uses small amounts of electricity to reduce the sensitivity of nerves around the spine. Patients typically feel only a gentle vibration or tingling during TENS treatment. Not all patients using TENS experience pain relief.3–5 TENS therapy may be done in a medical office or the TENS unit may be prescribed to the patient and taken home with instructions regarding its proper use.
Read more about Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation on Spine-health.com
How Do Doctors Diagnose Spondylosis
To diagnose spinal osteoarthritis, a doctor will need to conduct a physical and neurological examination and look closely at a patient’s spine and range of motion when bending forward, backward, and side-to-side. The physician will note the shape of the spine, including any abnormal curvatures, and will palpate or feel the spine to detect any tender spots, muscle tightness, spasms, bumps, or areas of inflammation.
Your physician will evaluate your pain level, along with other symptoms such as weakness or paresthesias, and take X-rays to detect bone spurs or loss of disc height, which can be a sign of degenerative disc disease. Your doctor may also order a CT or MRI to view degenerative changes and abnormalities in the spines soft tissues. Depending on your symptoms, you may undergo other diagnostic tests.
X-rays can show bone spurs, while other types of imaging can depict soft tissue changes.What Are Some Common Nonoperative Spondylosis Treatment Options?
Spondylosis is treated with a multi-modal therapeutic approach, which best addresses the multi-faceted nature of the disease, said Dr. LaSalle. “Physical therapy is a cornerstone of treatment in most cases, which helps to protect and strengthen the vulnerable areas of the spine. Complementary and alternative treatments such as massage and acupuncture can also be utilized as part of a holistic treatment approach.”
- Physical therapy may include ice, heat, massage, and ultrasound.
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Exercise And Mobility Aids
Arthritic dogs benefit greatly from controlled exercise. Considering the joints are compromised it is advisable to practice several but shorter walks. Exercise is important because of several reasons, including:
- It strengthens the legs and muscles
- Promotes healthy body weight
- Supports joint function and pain-free movement.
If you are not sure which exercise regimen is best for your senior dog with arthritis, you could ask the veterinarian for advice.
To relieve the joint stress and encourage proper movement, your trusted DVM may recommend using mobility aids like back braces or wheelchairs for pets.
In general your dog will not have to wear the aid tool at all times, only while walking outside or when expecting more challenging physical activity.
Arthritis Is A Hopeless Disease Youre Doomed
Fact: There is much a person with arthritis can do. Good quality of life is still possible.
The limitations that arthritis imposes on an individual can cause people closest to them to become overprotective. Sometimes, people do too much to try and help the person with arthritis. The disease can interfere with physical ability, but certainly, the one with arthritis should not be viewed as totally dependent or invalid. A certain amount of help and dependence is likely. It must be remembered, though, that it is best to maintain as much independence as possible for both physical and emotional reasons.
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What Are The Most Common Spinal Arthritis Treatment Options
One common treatment option that your doctor may recommend is bracing or a cervical collar to restrict your movement.
If theres no improvement after a period of time, your doctor may recommend spine surgery.
He or she will probably also prescribe a painkiller, like acetaminophen , nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen , or prescription opioids such as codeine and morphine.
Causes Of Spinal Arthritis
Spinal arthritis is typically the result of years of wear and tear that has caused deterioration of the joints and cartilage along the spine. Regrettably, we still do not know exactly why this happens. Even those who have taken good care of themselves are at risk of developing osteoarthritis of the spine.
However, there are several risk factors that may make you more susceptible to spinal arthritis:
- Spinal trauma or injury
- History of osteoarthritis in your family
- Working a job that caused repetitive stress on the back
- Other conditions such as diabetes, Lyme disease, irritable bowel syndrome, gout, psoriasis, or tuberculosis
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Ankylosing Spondylitis Risk Factors
Its not known what causes AS, but genetics plays at least some role. The condition is more common in men and in Caucasians, and about 90 percent of Caucasians with AS carry a gene called HLA-B27. However, not everyone with the gene will get ASand people without the gene can develop the condition. Therefore, other factors also contribute. Smoking, for example, can increase risk for AS.
Its not possible to predict who will get AS. But having the symptoms described above in addition to a first- or second-degree relative with a type of arthritis in a group of conditions called spondyloarthritiswhich includes AS, psoriatic arthritis, arthritis-related inflammatory bowel disease, and reactive arthritisshould prompt you to be evaluated for AS.
This graphic compares a healthy spine with one affected by ankylosing spondylitis. When bones fuse together, the effect can be whats known as bamboo spine.
Know The Causes And Causes Of The Causes
As with any illness, finding a genuine cure requires looking within to pinpoint the actual cause.
As mentioned above, autoimmunity is one suspected cause. However, some medical experts fail to delve even further the common treatments for this disease are meant to suppress symptoms and the immune system and go no further than that.
One of the reasons so many people chronically suffer from and continue to be diagnosed with this disease is continuous treatment versus healing.
To actually cure this disease, more doctors should do what some are already doing: discover the culprits that trigger an autoimmune response.
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How Arthritis In The Back Is Treated
Treatment for back arthritis depends on many factors, including your age, level of pain, type and severity of arthritis, other medical conditions and medications, and personal health goals. Because joint damage caused by arthritis is irreversible, treatment usually focuses on managing pain and preventing further damage.
New Research On Treating And Curing Ra
Because RA is an autoimmune disease, most of the current research on treating RA focuses on the immune system.
Researchers are looking at ways to disrupt the faulty immune response that causes RA inflammation at both the cellular and microcellular level.
A explained why its important to understand how the immune cells work in treating RA.
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Spondyloarthritis In The Neck
Other types of neck arthritis include psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis, which are both considered a type of arthritis called spondyloarthritis. Its an umbrella term for inflammatory diseases that involve both the joints and entheses, the places where ligaments and tendons attach to the bones.
Psoriatic arthritis is a form of arthritis often accompanied by psoriasis, an inflammatory skin disease. For some people who have psoriatic arthritis, the condition involves the spine, which impacts the neck. Pain happens when inflammation strikes the joints between the vertebrae. This pain can occur on just one side of the body, the neck, and the lower and upper back. Read more about psoriatic arthritis symptoms.
Ankylosing spondylitis is a form of arthritis that strikes the bones in your spine and pelvis as well as peripheral joints. Early signs and symptoms might include pain and stiffness in your lower back and hips, especially in the morning and after inactivity. Fatigue and neck pain are common. AS symptoms might worsen, improve, or stop at irregular intervals.
Medication Options For Neck Arthritis
Analgesic and NSAID pain medication
Over-the-counter medications can be used to help address pain, inflammation, and swelling. NSAIDs like aspirin, naproxen, and ibuprofen can help relieve pain and reduce inflammation. Analgesics can help with mild to moderate pain. Your doctor can prescribe a stronger anti-inflammatory if OTC medications dont provide relief.
Even though many commonly used NSAIDs are available over the counter, its important to talk to your doctor about side effects and drug interactions. NSAIDs can have significant side effects, including gastrointestinal complications, and are associated with an increased risk of heart disease.
Disease-modifying arthritis medication
Neck pain due to inflammatory arthritis is typically treated with a disease-modifying antirheumatic drug , such as methotrexate for RA. Other conventional DMARDs include leflunomide, hydroxychloroquine, and sulfasalazine. Biologics are a newer type of DMARD that target specific immune system pathways. DMARDs help to reduce the immune system activity that is triggering inflammation and pain.
Steroid injections and nerve blocks
An epidural steroid injection is where doctors inject medicine directly into the epidural space of the spinal canal surrounding the nerve roots. The medicine is a combination of corticosteroids and a local anesthetic, which together reduce inflammation and relieve pain.
The anesthesia offers temporary pain relief and the corticosteroids reduce inflammation in the joint.
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Surgery For Neck Arthritis
Surgery is usually a last resort for neck arthritis, says Dr. Milani. Your doctor may recommend it if you have severe pain that isnt relieved with nonsurgical treatment or if you have signs of neurologic injury. Surgery may be needed if the arthritis causes instability, or more importantly, impingement of nerves and/or the spinal cord, says Dr. Shah.
Spinal Arthritis: Causes Symptoms And Treatments
Spinal arthritis can be a painful and debilitating problem for people over 40.
It causes stiffness and discomfort, which is usually more pronounced in the morning right when you wake up.
This is known as first movement pain and typically lasts for about 30 minutes.
The discomfort tends to lessen during the day as you go about your daily activities, then gets worse again at the end of the day.
This is likely because youre not active during the night, which leads to fluid accumulating in the affected facet joint or joints. This fluid build-up causes swelling.
If spinal arthritis is left untreated, it can lead to physiological problems such as muscle breakdown or weakness.
It can cause psychological problems too like anxiety and depression.
This is particularly common for people whose arthritis affects their quality of life or interferes with their ability to work.
Not everyone with spinal arthritis will experience pain in the same way.
Some experience low-grade chronic pain, while others may experience acute, sudden attacks of severe pain that limit their daily activities.
In the most serious cases, spinal arthritis sufferers are bedridden during acute attacks.
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