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What Can Be Done For Arthritis In The Back

Prescription Medication And Surgery

Treating Back Pain Caused by Arthritis

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.

Rest To Prevent Painful Spinal Arthritis Flare

Treatment plans for osteoarthritis should include regularly scheduled rest and breaks, including taking breaks from such tasks as using a computer. Patients will benefit from learning to recognize the body’s signals, and knowing when to stop or slow down.

Resting sore joints decreases stress on the joints and muscles, and relieves pain and muscle spasms. Patients are asked to simply decrease the intensity and/or frequency of the activities that consistently cause them joint pain until they can get their muscles stronger.

Surprising Ways Arthritis Can Affect Your Whole Body

If you have rheumatoid arthritis , youre probably used to experiencing pain, swelling and stiffness in your joints. However, because rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic disease, it can also affect your whole body and even lead to the damage of some of your major organs as well as a shorter life span.

So which parts of the body can RA affect? Keep reading to find out.

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How Arthritis In The Back Is Diagnosed

Diagnosing arthritis in the back begins with taking your medical history and doing a physical exam of your back and legs to assess your mobility/flexibility and make sure your nerves are working properly. The doctor will ask questions about:

  • Where the pain is occurring
  • How long the pain has lasted
  • What the pain feels like/how severe it is
  • What situations/activities make the pain feel better or worse
  • How the pain is affecting/limiting your daily function

Imaging tests are usually needed to help confirm a diagnosis of arthritis. X-rays are typically the first imaging test ordered. They can joint damage/bone spurs, but cannot show damage to soft tissues such as muscles, ligaments, or bulging discs. Other tests may be ordered to look for changes or damage that is not visible on X-rays. These may include MRI, CT, ultrasound, bone scans, or other tests as needed. The gold standard to diagnose arthritis in the back is actually an injection called a medial branch block, but its not often necessary, says Dr. Kirschner.

If your doctor suspects you could have a type of inflammatory arthritis, they may order blood tests to look for signs of inflammation, such as C-reactive protein or erythrocyte sedimentation rate.

Other blood tests may look for genetic markers associated with axial spondyloarthritis, such as HLA-B27, or antibodies associated with rheumatoid arthritis .

What Questions Should I Ask My Doctor

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If you have ankylosing spondylitis, you may want to ask your healthcare provider:

  • Why did I get ankylosing spondylitis?
  • What is the best treatment for ankylosing spondylitis?
  • What are the treatment risks and side effects?
  • What lifestyle changes should I make to manage the condition?
  • Is my family at risk for developing ankylosing spondylitis? If so, should we get genetic tests?
  • Am I at risk for other types of arthritis or back problems?
  • What type of ongoing care do I need?
  • Should I look out for signs of complications?

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Ankylosing spondylitis is a form of arthritis that mostly affects the spine. Its a lifelong condition without a cure. However, exercise, medications and lifestyle changes can help manage symptoms so you can enjoy a long, productive life. Its rare for someone with AS to become severely disabled. Talk to your healthcare provider about the steps you can take to stay active and manage symptoms.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/21/2020.

References

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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.

What Does Low Back Strain Feel Like

Symptoms of low back strain include:

  • Pain and stiffness in the back.
  • Pain in the buttocks and the legs, often in the back of the thigh.
  • Pain that worsens when bending, stretching, coughing, or sneezing.

Since some symptoms of low back strain are similar to those of more serious conditions, itâs important to get checked out by a doctor. Any numbness and weakness in your legs, or bowel and bladder problems, can be a sign of nerve damageâ and that needs immediate medical attention.

To diagnose low back strain, your doctor will give you a thorough exam. You may also need X-rays, MRIs , and CT scans. These extra tests may only be needed if your pain doesnât go away on its own or with conservative treatment.

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How Will I Know If I Have Lumbar Arthritis

If youre experiencing lumbar arthritis, you may have already been diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis. In most cases of psoriatic arthritis, a diagnosis of psoriasis will precede any arthritis symptoms that occur.

If youre experiencing stiffness, creaking, and lost range of motion in your lower back and have never been diagnosed by a doctor with arthritis, see your doctor. They will perform a physical exam to check for inflammation and swelling at the site of your pain.

If your doctor suspects that you have arthritis, you will probably need to have an X-ray. X-rays can show any issues with bone density, cartilage loss, and bone spurs that may be causing your pain.

X-rays can also be useful in tracking your arthritis and assessing whether your recommended treatment is preventing further damage to your joints.

Your doctor will also order a blood test to determine what kind of arthritis you have.

You may be referred to a rheumatologist, a doctor who specializes in joint pain, for further testing.

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Can This Injury Or Condition Be Prevented

Top 3 Exercises For Arthritis in your Back: Back Pain

OA occurs as you age, but is not a direct result of getting older. There are many factors that may put you at risk of developing OA, including your family history. Other factors include exposure to risks at work such as assuming prolonged or awkward positions and smoking. Regular conditioning and strengthening exercises will improve the ability of your muscles to work and may help prevent OA of the spine.

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What Kind Of Physical Therapist Do I Need

All physical therapists are prepared through education and clinical experience to treat OA of the spine. However, you may want to consider:

  • A physical therapist who has treated people with OA of the spine. Some physical therapists have a practice with an orthopedic or geriatric focus.
  • A physical therapist who is a board-certified clinical specialist or who completed a residency or fellowship in orthopedic or geriatric physical therapy. This physical therapist has advanced knowledge, experience, and skills that may apply to your condition.

You can find physical therapists who have these and other credentials by using Find a PT, the online tool built by the American Physical Therapy Association to help you search for physical therapists with specific clinical expertise in your geographic area.

General tips when youre looking for a physical therapist :

  • Get recommendations from family and friends or from other health care providers.
  • When you contact a physical therapy clinic for an appointment, ask about the physical therapists experience in helping people with OA of the spine.
  • Be prepared to describe your symptoms in as much detail as possible, and report activities that make your symptoms worse.

Other Conditions That Cause Back Pain

Sometimes pain felt in the back actually originates elsewhere in the body. Such problems may include: prostate trouble in men problems with reproductive organs in women kidney diseases, such as an infection or kidney stone diseases of the intestines or pancreas, such as cancer or a blockage cancer that has spread to the spine multiple myeloma, a form of cancer of the bone and bone marrow curvature of the spine rarely, a tumor on the spinal cord

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Heat And Cold Therapy

Scientists have proven that applying heat or cold continuously or in frequent intervals can considerably reduce even chronic back pain and offer great relief.

Heat can be either moist or dry. Heating lamps, pads, and wearable heat packs are some of the dry heat sources. A warm bath and warm clothes that are soaked in warm water can be the moist sources.

*All individuals are unique. Your results can and will vary.

Cold compressor filled with ice, cold therapy are also beneficial. However, it should be noted that ice should never be applied directly to the skin as it can cause sudden sensation in the nerves and joints around the area.

Also, keeping ice for too long can result in joint stiffness and may even increase the pain. A period of 20-25 minutes is considered as ideal and it can be done 2-3 times a day for best results.

Can Physical Therapy Help Arthritis In The Back

Is Osteoarthritis Causing Your Neck or Back Pain?

In short: YES!

Physical therapy is a very effective arthritis back pain treatment.

A licensed physical therapist, like the ones at In Motion O.C., can teach you physical therapy exercises for lower back arthritis that can relieve your symptoms and get you back on your feet.

Back pain is one of the most common reasons people seek professional help from a physical therapist.

Strengthening the muscles around the vertebrae allows the muscles not the joints to do the work. Stronger muscles will help you move with less pain and discomfort.

Physical therapy is crucial to reducing the symptoms of back arthritis.

When sitting:

  • Sit in a firm chair with armrests to relieve pressure in your back and shoulders.
  • Keep your upper back straight and shoulders relaxed. Keep stomach muscles pulled in, and maintain the proper curve in your lower back. You can do this by tightening your stomach and buttocks. Some people are more comfortable sitting with the back of the chair at a 15- to 20-degree angle. A small cushion behind the lower back to maintain the natural curve of the back also can be quite helpful.
  • Keep your knees slightly higher than your hips.
  • Use a footstool or book under your feet if necessary.
  • Keep your feet flat on the floor or other surface.
  • Donât sit for a long period of time. Stand up every now and then to stretch tight muscles and give them a chance to relax.

When standing:

Lie on your side with your knees bent.

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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.

How To Treat Oa Of The Spine

Theres no cure for osteoarthritis of the spine, and the condition isnt reversible. The goal of treatment is to relieve pain and to improve the mobility of the affected joint. Your doctor can discuss possible treatment options with you. Mild cases of OA of the spine may respond to over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen . Take this medication as directed to avoid liver damage. You can also relieve pain and inflammation with ibuprofen and naproxen sodium . Side effects of these medications include upset stomach, bleeding problems, and organ damage, so its important to take as directed.

If symptoms dont respond to over-the-counter medication, your doctor may suggest antidepressants used to treat chronic pain. Another option is a corticosteroid injection directly into affected joints. Surgery isnt a common treatment for OA of the spine, but in severe cases you doctor may recommend a procedure to replace damaged discs in your spine.

Other therapies for treating and coping with osteoarthritis of the spine include:

  • gentle exercises to reduce pain and improve range of motion in the remaining cartilage
  • heat or cold therapy

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What Structures Make Up The Back

How to Relieve Back Arthritis Pain in 30 SECONDS

The lower backwhere most back pain occursincludes the five vertebrae in the lumbar region, which supports much of the weight of the upper body. The spaces between the vertebrae are maintained by round, rubbery pads called intervertebral discs that act like shock absorbers throughout the spinal column to cushion the bones as the body moves. Bands of tissue known as ligaments hold the vertebrae in place, and tendons attach the muscles to the spinal column. Thirty-one pairs of nerves are rooted to the spinal cord and they control body movements and transmit signals from the body to the brain.

Other regions of vertebrate are cervical , thoracic , and sacral and coccygeal segments.

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Symptoms Of Back Or Lumbar Arthritis

Arthritis in the back usually causes pain and stiffness, particularly in the lower portion of the back. A patient suffering from this condition often notice that their back is stiff particularly upon waking up in the morning and this may loosen as the day goes on. The symptoms of the condition may also worsen when doing strenuous or prolonged physical activities. When the arthritis condition in the lumbar facet joint is aggravated, the joints will start forming bone spurs, the nerves surrounding the joints become pinched, and the tissue becomes swollen and inflamed. This condition is known as spinal stenosis, which is very common in patients suffering from arthritis in back.

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What Causes Chronic Arthritis In The Spine

Imbalances in the body are the most common causes of Chronic Arthritis in the spine. The imbalances can happen in your hormone levels, stress levels, and even in your nutritional levels in the body. Muscle imbalances can adversely affect your posture, which can lead to all sort of pain including neck and back pain. Specific causes can vary from one person to another, but typically degeneration of spinal discs along with calcium build-up are factors. Even sometimes past surgeries or injuries can be to blame. Nerves become compacted or pinched, causing numbness and pain in the affected areas. A lot of people who deal with arthritis of the spine will also be affected by bone spurs and herniated discs.

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Learning To Manage Lower Back Pain

Osteoarthritis is known for causing severe back pain, especially within the lower lumbar region. The pain can be debilitating and depressing, but there is hope. Learning how to manage your osteoarthritis and back pain can greatly improve the quality of your life and reduce the number of bad days you have. With the right treatment methods, you can improve your symptoms and start enjoying life once again.

Types Of Spinal Arthritis

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Arthritis can develop in any joint of the body, including the spinal vertebrae. The most common types of arthritis are:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis: An autoimmune disorder where the body attacks and destroys joint cartilage.
  • Osteoarthritis: A wear-and-tear disorder in which the cartilage weakens and breaks down over time. Also called degenerative joint disease, it is the most common type of arthritis.
  • Ankylosing spondylitis: Spondyloarthritis is a group of inflammatory diseases that affect the joints and the areas where ligaments and tendons attach to the bones. When it occurs in the spine, it is called ankylosing spondylitis . In severe cases, it can lead to several vertebra fusing together.

Several factors can increase your risk of developing arthritis of the spine. These include excess weight, menopause, diabetes, genetics, previous injuries and repetitive movements from certain occupations or activities that put excess stress on the spine.

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Spinal Changes And Spinal Arthritis

The breakdown and erosion of cartilage quite often lead to the joint changing its shape. This is due to a process known as bone remodeling, says Hagit Rajter, a clinical physical therapist at the Joint Mobility Center, Hospital for Special Surgery, New York City.

âBone remodeling may cause bone spurs and cysts to form at the edges of bones,â Rajter told Verywell.

The low back is particularly affected when the osteoarthritis is in the spine.This is because the low back takes the day-to-day mechanical stresses of most of your body weight, Rajter comments.

âThe excess pressure on the low back that results in strain and irritated joints already damaged by arthritis can greatly amplify the pain,â she says, adding that generally the facet joints and spinal discs are most affected.

Rajter also notes that research supports the premise that osteoarthritis in your low back and hip affect your balance, along with your hip functioning and core strength. These ability decreases can make it more difficult to perform your usual activities at the level to which you may be accustomed. They also make it harder to exercise.

âThese are the indirect consequences of spinal arthritis,â Rajter says. âThey are not the disease, but they sure have an impact on it.â

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