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.
What To Know About Arthritis In Back
Arthritis in back is a common condition of the spine or the lumbar are that may result to various symptoms. Arthritis condition in the back is often seen in elders, but this may affect individuals from different age groups. However, individuals who are at high risk to this condition include the following:
- Older patients
- Obese individuals
- Those who experienced spine injuries
Arthritis in back is a common condition that affects the joint that connects the spinal segments or the vertebrae. The spines vertebrae are connected to each other in three different places. On the front part of the spinal cord, vertebrae are separated the the cushion-like spinal disc. Right behind it, the vertebrae are connected with two small joints known as the facet joints. These joints, together with the spinal disc, permit spinal movements including the arching of the back, twisting sideways and bending forward.
Considered as the most common form of arthritis that usually occur in the back or the spine is osteoarthritis. This is also known as the wear-and-tear arthritis. In case this type of arthritis occurs in the back, experts refer to it as spondylosis. Once the spinal joint starts to become arthritic, the movement of the spine may become stiff and painful. Back or lumbar spine arthritis is often prevalent accompanied by other health conditions that involve the spine, which include:
How Is Arthritis In The Spine Treated
The available treatment options to the condition are wide and are directed towards the alleviation of the symptoms of pain. The primary goal of treatment is to increase a persons ability to function every day, improve his mobility, and also help in his feeling of helplessness which many patients often succumb to.
The recommended exercises for arthritis in the back are:
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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.
Natural Remedies For Arthritis Pain
Arthritis pain doesnt just cause discomfort, pain, and disability, its expensive. But there is hope, and life doesnt have to be about waiting for the next bout of pain to pass. These home remedies for arthritis can help you beat the pain.
Keeping the joints warm when youre experiencing pain can help alleviate the symptoms. Use a heating pad or wrap the joint with a scarf to keep warm.
Light stroking and kneading of muscles may increase blood flow and warm affected joints, temporarily relieving pain. Make sure your massage therapist knows which joints are affected by arthritis.
Evidence shows losing weight can be hugely beneficial for people with OA. A recent study found patients who shed pounds had less inflammation and pain, better function, faster-walking speed, and a better quality of life.
This therapy uses fine needles inserted at specific points on the skin to reduce many types of pain, including that caused by some types of arthritis.
A review of 17 studies published in the journal Musculoskeletal Care found that yoga reduced osteoarthritis pain. But experts recommend avoiding hot yoga if you have joint problems. The heat may make you feel as if you can stretch more than you should, which can further damage joints.
See also: 6 Healthy Habits To Prevent Arthritis.
Ginger and Turmeric
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Tai Chi Instead Of Yoga
Alternative exercises like yoga are known to build strength and flexibility. But tai chi may be a better bet for alleviating pain from back arthritis.
Tai chi originated as a fighting technique, but has transformed into gentle, continuously moving stretches. Many poses work from the waist, which enhances spinal stretching.
Unlike yoga, tai chi puts little stress on the joints and helps improve balance. If youre new to tai chi, consider signing up for a class. The exercises can also be modified for severe arthritis back pain.
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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Back Surgery Can Exacerbate Arthritis Symptoms
Problems with hypermobility in the spine may occur where muscles have become weaker or ligaments have been compromised or cut by previous trauma or back surgery. Stretching and strengthening exercises for the spine are important in order to reduce the risks of further degeneration. As the neck is more mobile than other areas of the spine it is the cervical spine which tends to suffer most due to wear and tear. Arthritis in the neck is a common condition resulting in pain and discomfort in the neck, back and shoulders. The lumbar spine may also be affected and back surgery for arthritis such as a transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion may help to stabilize the spine and reduce pain due to nerve compression and hypermobility. Fortunately, adjacent segment syndrome is less likely to occur in the lower lumbar spine than in the cervical spine, or upper sections of the lumbar spine, due to the relative lack of motion of these lower vertebral sections. In a small number of cases the symptoms of spinal arthritis are attributable to a thickening and hardening of the ligaments in the spine which then cause nerve and cord compression. Removing or severing these ligaments can help decompress the spine but may then cause hypermobility and an increased progression of degeneration in the facet joints and discs.
What Is Lumbar Canal Stenosis
Lumbar canal stenosis is the narrowing of the spinal canal or the tunnels through which nerves and other structures communicate with that canal. Narrowing of the spinal canal usually occurs due to changes associated with aging that decrease the size of the canal, including the movement of one of the vertebrae out of alignment.
The narrowing of the spinal canal or the side canals that protect the nerves often results in a pinching of the nerve root of the spinal cord. The nerves become increasingly irritated as the diameter of the canal becomes narrower.
Symptoms of lumbar canal stenosis include pain, numbness or weakness in the legs, groin, hips, buttocks, and lower back. Symptoms usually worsen when walking or standing and might decrease when lying down, sitting, or leaning slightly forward.
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Nonsurgical Treatments For L4
Nonsurgical treatments of the L4-L5 motion segment include:
- Medication. Both prescription and over-the-counter medications are used to help relieve pain from L4-L5. Typically, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are usually tried first. For more severe pain, opioids, tramadol, and/or corticosteroids may be used.
- Self-care. To promote healing and/or prevent an L4-L5 injury from becoming worse, a few tips include avoiding:
- Repeated bending of the spine
- Sudden, abrupt movements, such as jumping
- High-intensity exercise and lifting heavy weights
It is important to use correct posture while standing, sitting, walking, lying down, and lifting items off the floor to maintain a normal spinal curvature and minimize stresses on the spine.
Additionally, staying active, following an exercise-routine, quitting smoking, and reducing weight in overweight individuals can help lower the risk of problems stemming from L4-L5.
Reducing Your Risk Of Spinal Arthritis
You cant change your gender, race or genes, but there are other ways you may be able to lower your risk of spinal arthritis. These include:
Getting regular low-impact exercise to strengthen back and core muscles
Getting enough calcium and vitamin D to prevent or slow osteoporosis
Maintaining a healthy weight
Sleeping on a firm mattress and using a supportive chair at work
If you have a family history of inflammatory spinal or if you have , talk with your doctor about additional ways you can manage your risk of developing arthritis of the back.
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How Is Spinal Arthritis Diagnosed
Your doctor may use some or all of the following diagnostic methods to confirm spinal arthritis:
Medical history and physical exam
Blood tests for genetic markers and/or RA antibodies
X-rays of the spine to locate the arthritic joint
Joint aspiration: testing of the synovial fluid inside a joint
To pinpoint the painful joint, your doctor may numb it with an injection and check whether the pain goes away.
Degenerative Disk Disease: Janâs Story
At 78, Jan Greer wanted to stay active and athletic. Herniated disks, stenosis and other degenerative back problems were causing him unbearable pain. When the pain became too much to bear, he turned to Johns Hopkins.
How Do I Prepare For Spinal Stenosis Surgery
To prepare for spine surgery, quit smoking if you smoke and exercise on a regular basis to speed your recovery time. Ask your provider if you need to stop taking any non-essential medications, supplements or herbal remedies that you may be taking that could react with anesthesia. Also, never hesitate to ask your healthcare team any questions you may have or discuss any concerns.
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Osteoarthritis Of The Spine
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of spinal arthritis. It usually affects the lower back and develops through wear and tear. As the cartilage between the joints slowly breaks down, it leads to inflammation and pain. Because the pain is from mechanical damage, it is typically more noticeable when you bend or twist your back. Past back injuries may also contribute to the development of degenerative arthritis of the spine.
Osteoarthritis of the spine usually affects the facet joints between the vertebrae. It is also known as facet joint arthritis, facet joint syndrome and facet disease. In some cases, degeneration of the spinal discs may contribute to facet joint arthritis. As discs between the vertebrae become thinner, more pressure is transferred to the facet joints. This leads to more friction and more damage to the cartilage.
When these degenerative changes occur in the neck, this condition is called cervical spondylosis. Arthritis in the neck doesnât always cause pain, and many people have no noticeable symptoms.
Can Spinal Stenosis Cause Pain In My Groin Hip Thigh And Calf
Yes, this is certainly possible. If your spinal stenosis is pinching your sciatic nerve a nerve that originates in your lower spine you might feel pain or have numbness, tingling or muscle weakness along this nerves pathway from your lower back, down your leg to your foot. This condition is known as sciatica.
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Why Does Spinal Arthritis Develop
Spinal arthritis is caused by inflammation in the facet joints of your spine. Oftentimes this inflammation is due to overstress and wear and tear on the joints, but other underlying causes include autoimmune disorders and infection. Arthritis can develop in any area of the spine, but based on the way stress is often channeled through the spine, it most commonly affects the cervical and lumbar portions.
Factors that can increase your risk for spinal arthritis include:
- Old age
- Underlying autoimmune conditions
- Prolonged manual labor over the years
Symptoms of arthritis vary based on the type of arthritis youre dealing with, be it osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, spondyloarthritis, psoriatic arthritis or another inflammatory arthritis condition, but common symptoms tend to include pain, stiffness, swelling, tenderness, shooting discomfort, muscle fatigue and inhibited spinal flexibility.
Why Do Most Traditional Spinal Arthritis Treatment Options Fail
Most traditional treatment options fail to provide long-term pain relief because they only address your symptoms. They dont address the underlying cause of your condition.
Pain medications are like a Band-Aid. They may ease some of your discomfort and reduce inflammation, but they do nothing to fix your condition.
Most doctors will tell you that developing spinal arthritis (or any other type of degenerative arthritis is just part of the aging process.
Theyll say it cant be avoided.
And while its true that arthritis affects more than 90% of people over the age of 55 , this does not mean that developing a degenerative arthritis is inevitable.
And it certainly doesnt mean youre doomed to a life of pain or that youll need to rely on Big Pharmas solutions forever.
While theres no magic bullet that works for everyone, there are a lot of simple, all-natural therapies you can use right now to relieve your pain.
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Lifestyle Changes And Alternative Treatments
Certain lifestyle changes can help relieve the pressure on your spine and improve your overall outlook.
- eating foods that reduce inflammation
- quitting smoking
- reducing alcohol consumption
You may also benefit from working with a physical therapist. They can help you perform specific exercises that may restore lost range of motion in your lower back.
Pain from lumbar arthritis can also be treated by alternative or complementary medicine, especially in early stages. Acupuncture and chiropractic care felt in the lower back, but they arent long-term solutions.
The Best Arthritis Of The Spine Treatments
There are quite a few strategies available, some of which you may not have heard of before. Because you are unique, as are your underlying pain causes and triggers, you may want to experiment with a variety of these techniques to see which one, or which combination, gives you relief.
Its important to remember and realize that if you are having back pain, theres a very good chance your muscles are out of balance, and this is the source of your pain. This can happen for a variety of reasons. Body-wide imbalances in your stress levels, hormone levels and nutrition may trigger or exacerbate joint degeneration. Weak core muscles are another common issue, which can negatively impact your posture, leading to neck and back pain, and furthering degeneration.
Some of the BEST in terms of safety, effectiveness, and cost-effectiveness arthritis of the spine treatments include:
- Inversion Therapy / Spinal Decompression Therapy, to help with decompression and stress on the joints of your spine
- Muscle Balance Therapy, which can help generate balance and stability in your pelvis and spine, and minimize excessive wear and tear of the disc and other joints of your spine
- Trigger Point Therapy, to help restore proper muscle function and address localized pain
- Far Infrared Heat, which is deep penetrating and longer lasting for pain relief and to increase joint range of motion
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Nonsurgical Treatments For L5
Treatment of L5-S1 usually begins with:
- Medication. Over-the-counter medications, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are usually tried first for pain stemming from L5-S1. For more severe pain, prescription medication, such as opioids, tramadol, and/or corticosteroids may be used.
- Physical therapy. Specific exercises and physical therapies can be designed to target pain stemming from L5-S1. These therapies help stabilize the back and keep the muscles and joints well-conditioned for long-term relief, while also providing a healing environment for the tissues in the lower back.
- Self-care. Mild to moderate pain may be treated with heat and ice at home. For sciatica pain, it is advised to stay active and continue daily activities as tolerated. While bed rest may provide temporary relief from symptoms, it usually does not aid in faster or long-term recovery for sciatica.
Following an exercise routine, quitting smoking, and reducing weight in overweight individuals can help lower the risk of problems stemming from L5-S1.