How Is Osteoarthritis Of The Spine Treated
In most cases, treatment of spinal osteoarthritis is geared toward relieving the symptoms of pain and increasing a person’s ability to function. The goal is to have a healthy lifestyle.
Initial treatment may include losing weight if needed and then, for everyone, maintaining a healthy weight. It may also include exercise. Besides helping with weight management, exercise can also help:
- increase flexibility
- improve blood flow
- make it easier to do daily tasks
- Strengthening exercises. These exercises seek to make muscles that support the joints stronger. They work through resistance with the use of weights or rubber bands.
- Aerobic exercises. These are exercises that make the heart and circulatory system stronger.
- Range-of-motion exercises. These exercises increase the bodyâs flexibility.
Including rest periods in the overall treatment plan is necessary. But bed rest, splints, bracing, or traction for long periods of time is not recommended.
There are non-drug treatments available for osteoarthritis, including:
- heat or cold compresses, which refers to placing ice or heated compresses onto the affected joint
- transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation using a small device that emits electrical pulses onto the affected area
- nutritional supplements
How Does Shoulder Arthritis Develop
Shoulder arthritis usually results from gradual wear and tear of the cartilage. Cartilage is present in every joint in the body it covers the surface of the bones inside the joints similar to Teflon on a ball bearing. Cartilage is a living tissue 2 millimeters to 3 millimeters thick about the thickness of one or two layers of cardboard. This makes the contact between bones softer. If the cartilage is intact, it can take multiple rotations with no wear of the surface because its smooth.
Shoulder arthritis typically develops in stages. First, the cartilage gets soft , then it develops cracks in the surface , then it begins to fibrillate , and finally, it wears away to expose the surface of the bone . As a result, it loses its ability to act as a smooth, gliding surface.
The cartilage doesnt wear away all at once over the entire surface of the bone in a joint. Instead, it wears at different rates in different parts. So if you consider the surface of a ball bearing that was covered with Teflon, this type of wear would be as if the Teflon had pits and the surface would now be irregular .
Once the surface becomes irregular, the cartilage may undergo further damage. It may begin to thin out, eventually leading to the bones of the shoulder rubbing against each other . Many people think that arthritis is bone-on-bone traction in the joint, but in reality, arthritis is the process that can lead to the bone-on-bone traction.
The Connection Between Back Pain & Arthritis
Back pain is one of the most common medical complaints. Its widely reported that about 80% of adults experience low back pain at some point in their lives. Most back pain goes away on its own within a few days to a few weeks and is not due to chronic disease. Most acute back pain is due to a musculoskeletal injury like a muscle strain or sprain and usually lasts one to seven days. Otherwise, its considered chronic and may be caused by arthritis.
Many people do not suspect arthritis as a cause of their back pain. Arthritis in the back can occur in conjunction with other causes of back pain which can make it harder to get the right diagnosis and treatment. Many forms of arthritis and related conditions can cause back pain, stiffness and swelling. The lower back is the most common site of arthritis back pain.
Although back pain is a common symptom, not all people with arthritis in the back have symptoms like pain, even those with advanced back arthritis, said Adam Reinhard, Nurse Practitioner with West Tennessee Medical Group Neuroscience & Spine. On the other hand, some people may experience back pain even before evidence of arthritis can be seen on an X-ray.
The more common types of arthritis that affect the back include:
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Exceptional Multidisciplinary Care For Spinal Arthritis
The UH team of spine specialists have the expertise and experience to provide patients with the highest level of care for spinal arthritis. In fact, our spine program is one of only 20 programs in the country to be designated a Center of Excellence by the National Spine Institute.
We draw upon the expertise of a wide variety of clinical specialists to devise personalized treatment plans for each patient who comes to us for care. Your team may include:
- Orthopedic surgeons
How Is Osteoarthritis Of The Spine Diagnosed
The best way to confirm a diagnosis of osteoarthritis is by X-ray. The doctor will take a medical history and perform a physical exam to see if the person has pain, tenderness, loss of motion involving the neck or lower back, or if symptoms are suggestive, signs of nerve involvement such as weakness, reflex changes, or loss of sensation.
The doctor may order certain tests to aid in the diagnosis of osteoarthritis of the spine. These tests include:
- X-rays to look for bone damage, bone spurs, and loss of cartilage or disc however, X-rays are not able to show early damage to cartilage.
- Blood tests to exclude other diseases
- Magnetic resonance imaging to show possible damage to discs or narrowing of areas where spinal nerves exit
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Managing Headaches And Ra
Here are some other tips for responding to a headache:
- Question your RA treatment. If youve taken Tylenol several days in a row and your headache is sticking around, you might want to talk to your rheumatologist to make sure that its not a side effect of your treatment or a new symptom .
- Consider your stress level. One possible reason that people with complicated health problems like RA also have headaches is stress. Stress management techniques, including appropriate exercise, deep breathing, or meditation, can help cut back on headaches as well.
- Stay hydrated. Independent of RA, you can get headaches if you dont drink enough fluids during the day. You probably know how important it is to care for yourself, but even the most dedicated patient can forget to drink water when life gets busy.
- Get enough sleep. People who dont get high-quality sleep may also experience more headaches. Because RA pain can interfere with sleep, it may also contribute to headache pain. If you are having a hard time sleeping, let your doctor know. Likewise, any caffeine you may be relying on to get over fatigue can also contribute to headaches.
- Avoid cigarette smoke. For some people, smoking and being around secondhand smoke can trigger headaches yet one more reason to avoid cigarettes and secondhand smoke exposure!
Types Of Arthritis That Affect The Back
If you have arthritis in your back, its important to understand the type of arthritis that might be causing it. Different types of arthritis have specific medications and treatments. Here are some of the more common types of arthritis that affect the back.
It is common for people with back pain to have more than one cause, which could include arthritis as well as other causes .
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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.
Advanced Diagnosis And Treatments For Spinal Arthritis
In addition to a physical exam and medical history, your spine specialist can often confirm a diagnosis of spine arthritis through a simple X-ray exam. To obtain more detailed information, the following tests may also be ordered:
- Blood tests to look for genetic markers and/or rheumatoid arthritis antibodies
- Additional imaging exams to pinpoint the exact location and extent of the damage or to rule out other possible causes
If a diagnosis of spine arthritis is confirmed, your UH spine specialist will develop a personalized treatment plan based on your age, general overall health and the severity of your symptoms. Although there is no cure, treatments can improve joint function, keep joint pain and inflammation to a minimum and prevent further damage. Your treatment plan may include:
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Ask About Steroid Injections
Physicians often use steroids like cortisone to help with the acute inflammatory process and get patients stabilized. Cortisone acts as powerful anti-inflammatory when injected into a joint it can help reduce swelling and inflammation and decrease discomfort. When cortisone is injected, its anti-inflammatory effects begin immediately, but the length of time it takes to experience pain relief can vary from days to weeks. There are a lot of misconceptions about cortisone injections because there are different types of cortisone. Generally, Dr. Sutera says, you can have three cortisone shots in as many months before taking a long break before getting another round.
Surgery For Back Arthritis
Surgery is a last resort when it comes to arthritis in the back. Know that 95 percent of people with back pain will not need surgery, and 75 percent will fully recover within three months, says Dr. Tiso.
Doctors recommend that you try medications, physical therapy, and weight loss before considering surgery, says Dr. Kilian. The best surgical outcomes often occur in patients who are actively involved in physical therapy and have a healthy body weight, he says.
The type of surgery depends on the type of arthritis and region of the back that is affected. Depending on the procedure performed, surgery aims to decompress any pinched nerves and free up the nerve roots from bone spurs and other tissues that may be pressing on them.
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Prescription Medication And Surgery
If OTC medications arent easing your symptoms, your doctor may recommend corticosteroids or muscle relaxants. Corticosteroids are used to control inflammation, and muscle relaxants are used to minimize muscle spasms.
Your doctor will only recommend surgery as a last resort. Its typically only needed in cases where the bones have fused together or where the pain is so extreme that it prevents any range of motion.
Early Signs Of Arthritis In The Back
- Wear and tear
- Professions involving lifting heavy machines or loads
Some of the early signs of arthritis in the back include
Some of the late signs of arthritis in the back include
- Pain that radiates to the arms and legs
- Muscle weakness
- Loss of bowel or bladder function
- Loss of coordination or changes in the ability to walk
- Severe back spasm
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Rheumatoid Arthritis Of The Spine
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder, meaning that the immune system turns on itself. It attacks synovium the lining of the joints. Although rheumatoid arthritis is more common in other joints, it can also affect the spine, specifically the cervical region . Rheumatoid arthritis of the spine is not caused by wear and tear, so its considered an inflammatory arthritis. It may cause back pain even when these joints are not in use. It tends to affect women more than men.
What Is Ankylosing Spondylitis
Ankylosing spondylitis is a form of arthritis that causes chronic spine inflammation. Ankylosing spondylitis inflames the sacroiliac joints located between the base of the spine and pelvis. This inflammation, called sacroiliitis, is one of the first signs of AS. Inflammation often spreads to joints between the vertebrae, the bones that make up the spinal column. This condition is known as spondylitis.
Some people with AS experience severe, persistent back and hip pain and stiffness. Others have milder symptoms that come and go. Over time, new bone formations may fuse vertebrae sections together, making the spine rigid. This condition is called ankylosis.
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Spinal Arthritis Causes And Risk Factors
The causes of arthritis in the back or neck vary depending on the type of arthritis you have. Besides normal wear and tear and autoimmune triggers, in many cases the exact cause remains unknown. Genetic components have been identified in connection with some forms of spinal arthritis, meaning that it may be hereditary.
Other spinal arthritis risk factors include:
Presence of certain conditions such as diabetes, gout, psoriasis, tuberculosis, irritable bowel syndrome and Lyme disease
Stop Fearing Medications That May Help
Arthritis patients sometimes avoid painkillers because they’re afraid they’ll become addicted to them, or they choose not to use biologic drugs because they fear potential serious side effects. Remember that your healthcare provider would never prescribe something that might hurt you or that you could become dependent on as long as you take it as directed.
Make sure you understand when and how much of your medication you should take, and how you should take it and your arthritis meds should do nothing more than make it easier for you to live comfortably.
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Neck Pain Caused By Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis of the neck, called cervical spondylosis, is also common. This is characterized by arthritic deterioration of the discs and facet joint cartilage of the cervical spine. Spondylosis is nearly universal in elderly patients, but can also affect younger people. Some people experience no symptoms, while others may feel stiffness and/or pain in the neck, shoulders and/or between the shoulder blades. See also .
Rheumatoid Arthritis In The Neck
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease where the bodys immune system mistakenly attacks the lining of the joints. It often starts in the smaller joints of your hands and feet and can spread to other parts of the body like the neck as the disease progresses. This typically doesnt happen until years after the onset of arthritis symptoms.
Neck pain is the primary symptom of rheumatoid arthritis in the neck, with the severity varying from person to person. You may feel a dull or throbbing ache in the back of your neck around the base of the skull. Joint swelling and stiffness can make it hard to move from side to side.
The difference between rheumatoid arthritis neck pain and a neck injury is that stiffness and pain from an injury can gradually improve over days or weeks. Rheumatoid arthritis in the neck may not get better it can worsen if left untreated. Even if symptoms improve, inflammation, swelling, and stiffness can return with rheumatoid arthritis in the neck.
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Who Gets Osteoarthritis Of The Spine
In general, osteoarthritis happens as people get older. Younger people may get it from one of several different causes:
- injury or trauma to a joint
- a genetic defect involving cartilage
For people younger than age 45, osteoarthritis is more common among men. After age 45, osteoarthritis is more common among women. Osteoarthritis occurs more often among people who are overweight. It also occurs more frequently in those who have jobs or do sports that put repetitive stress on certain joints.
But Is Cracking Your Neck Any Good For You
Well, it depends. If you can crack your neck by merely turning your head, you likely arent causing yourself damage to do it occasionally. However, if you are forcing your neck to pop or crack suddenly, you probably arent doing yourself a lot of good.
Cracking your neck yourself may not be the best option if you are feeling more than just a bit stiff, or if you are experiencing neck stiffness and pain over several days, and if this is the case you will benefit from seeing a chiropractor.
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