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
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Should I See A Health Professional
Most people with low back pain do not need to see a doctor or other health professional as the pain will get better within a week or two. In most cases tests such as x-rays, scans and blood tests are not helpful in finding out the cause of back pain. They are best avoided as they may lead to further unnecessary or harmful medical interventions.
Talk to your doctor if your pain does not settle down after a few weeks, or starts getting worse, or you become very worried by it. A physiotherapist can also be helpful in providing reassurance and helpful information.
You should see your doctor immediately if:
- you have new symptoms such as losing weight, sweats and chills, problems controlling your bladder or bowel, tingling or numbness in your legs or saddle region
- you have osteoporosis or a history of cancer
- you are prone to infection, or you are an intravenous drug user.
What Can You Do If You Have Spinal Osteoarthritis
There are plenty of treatments for spinal arthritis. One of the best and most underutilized treatments for spinal osteoarthritis is doing back-strengthening exercises. Other treatments you can try on your own include using a warming pad or ice pack , using a topical pain reliever, losing excess weight, and taking a break from activities that aggravate pain.
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Exercise For Arthritis In The Neck
If youre experiencing neck pain due to arthritis, your doctor may recommend physical therapy. Physical therapy for neck arthritis entails doing specific exercises to help strengthen and stretch weak or strained muscles. Physical therapy can improve range of motion. Sessions and programs vary in length and frequency and are tailored to your condition.
The foundation of what were trying to do in physical therapy for the neck is often to help improve posture and the way people move, says Dr. Milani. Exercises in physical therapy tend to be focused on strengthening muscles of the back and neck, which puts less strain on structures of the cervical spine.
Youll do exercises during physical therapy and get instructions on ones to do at home.
Regular Physical Activity at Home
You may feel like you dont want to move when your neck hurts. But being inactive may increase stiffness, which can cause you to lose even more mobility. Aches and pains tend to respond better to continued movement than rest, says Dr. Milani. Exercise is often the foundation of treatment.
Exercises that involve stretching, strengthening, and improving range of motion can help reduce pain and keep your neck limber. You want to move gently and smoothly when doing neck exercises, not jerk your neck or make sudden movements. You may feel discomfort at first. Stop if any exercise increases your neck pain.
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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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Spinal Arthritis May Contribute To Other Issues In The Spine
Spinal arthritis may cause bone spurs overgrowths on the edges of the bones. In the spine, bone spurs particularly affect facet joints, making them grow larger. This condition is called facet joint hypertrophy. Although bone spurs on their own are not harmful, they may narrow the passages for the spinal cord and the nerves exiting the spine. This may lead to two painful conditions:
Spinal stenosis compression of the spinal cord inside the spinal canal
Radiculopathy pinching of the peripheral nerves as they exit the spine
Ankylosing spondylitis may also cause additional problems such as:
Stress fractures in places where new bone has formed
A spinal deformity called kyphosis
What Happens After Radiofrequency Ablation
Following radiofrequency ablation:
- You will stay in a recovery room for observation, where a nurse will check your blood pressure and pulse.
- A bandage will be placed over the injection site.
- The nurse will give you a beverage and review your discharge instructions with you.
- Someone must drive you home.
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Referred Pain To And From The Lumbar Spine
Pain in the area of the lumbar spine may be due to important problems that are actually unrelated to the back. Referred pain occurs when a problem in one place in the body causes pain in another place. The pain travels down a nerve.. Sources of referred pain to the low back may include abdominal aneurysm , tubal pregnancy, kidney stones, pancreatitis, and colon cancer. Clues to these maladies include pain that waxes and wanes over a short period, with frequent peaks of intense pain, weight loss, abnormalities found during abdominal exam, and trace amounts of blood in the urine. On the other hand, pain can be referred from the low back and be felt in another location, as is often the case with . For example, it is not rare for a patient with a slipped disc in the lower back to have pain in the back of the thigh, or in the calf or even the foot, and not have any low back pain. This situation requires a doctor to sort out the type of pain and to do the examination required to show that the pain is actually coming from the spine .
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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Who Should I See For Lower Back Pain
Your primary care physician knows you best and should be your first contact for lower back pain. If he or she is unable to diagnose or treat the issue, you may get referred to a specialist, such as a rehabilitation physician . These specialists practice a comprehensive approach to lower back pain, and can diagnose and treat a variety of conditions that have lower back pain as a symptom.
Later, you may get referred to a physical therapist, a chiropractor or another practitioner depending on the nature of your back pain. The good news is that surgery is rarely needed for lower back pain. Only about one in ten patients needs lower back surgery, Chhatre says.
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Treating Spinal Osteoarthritis May Take A Combination Of Therapies
Talk with your doctor about your neck and/or back pain to make sure your diagnosis is accurate and current. Remember that certain types of back problems are degenerative, meaning they may change, improve, or worsen with time. Management of your spinal arthritis pain may involve more than 1 medication or therapy. You have choices, and your doctor can work with you to find the right drug or combination of medications and therapies to ease your spinal osteoarthritis symptoms.
Electrical Nerve Stimulation for Arthritis Pain. Arthritis Foundation Web site. https://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/treatments/natural/other-therapies/electrical-stimulation-knee.php. Accessed October 29, 2018.
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What You Need To Know
- Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis to affect the spine.
- Arthritis can occur anywhere along the spine but is more frequent in the lower back and neck
- Pain and stiffness are the most common symptoms of spinal arthritis.
- Causes of spinal arthritis are still largely unknown except for osteoarthritis, which is typically a result of wear and tear.
- Spinal arthritis treatment may include pain medications, steroid injections, physical therapy and surgery in severe cases.
- Several signs and symptoms of facet joint disorders may be similar to other lower back conditions, such as degenerative disc disease. These conditions also typically occur together, causing overlapping symptoms, which tends to make the diagnostic process more challenging.
Can Physical Therapy Help Arthritis In The Back
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.
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Techniques For Good Posture:
- 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.
- Don’t sit for a long period of time. Stand up every now and then to stretch tight muscles and give them a chance to relax.
- Stand with weight equal on both feet.
- Avoid locking your knees.
- Ease tension in your back by placing one foot on a footstool.
- If you stand for long periods of time, wear flat or low-heeled shoes.
- Keep your back straight by tightening your stomach muscles and buttocks.
Lie on your side with your knees bent.
- If more comfortable, place a pillow between your knees while sleeping on your side.
- If you sleep on your back, ask your doctor or physical therapist if placing pillows under your knees would help your lower back pain or make it worse.
- Use a firm mattress.
Chronic Lower Back Pain
When back pain continues for more than three months, it is considered chronic. Although for most people an episode of back pain is over by that time, in some cases it progresses and can have a major impact on ones ability to function. For some patients, physical therapy with local heat or ice application , combined with a home exercise program and education in proper positions for lifting and other movement techniques can make a major difference. Patients must learn to tolerate a certain degree of pain, or they may allow themselves to become more disabled than necessary. Patients at the Hospital for Special Surgery have had success with graded exercise to work through the pain, gradually increasing the exercise quota at each session so they can learn to tolerate more exercise in spite of the pain, and get back to work and activities. Read more detail on this topic in .
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The Best Exercises For Arthritis Back Pain
Arthritis can feel like a real pain in the back. In fact, the back is the most common source of pain among all individuals.
Unlike acute, or short-term back pain, arthritis can mean long-term chronic discomfort.
Symptoms that may accompany back pain include:
Your symptoms may be so severe that you dont feel like moving. But with your doctors consent, you may find that exercise can be one of the best ways to relieve arthritis back pain.
Related Conditions That Cause Tingling Numbness Or Weakness
Osteoarthritis can stimulate muscle spasms, the growth of bone spurs, or other degenerative changes that cause the spinal cord or its nerve roots to become compressed. When the spinal cord or a nerve root is squeezed, the entire area it travels to can be affected.
Osteoarthritic-related conditions that affect the spinal nerve roots include:
- Lumbar spinal stenosis, which occurs when the size of the bony opening for a spinal nerve root in the lower back is reduced. Lumbar spinal stenosis causes the affected nerve root to become irritated or compressed as it exits the spine. A person may experience tingling, weakness, or numbness that radiates from the lower back into the buttocks, thighs, leg, and/or foot. When nerve roots between L4 to S3 in the lumbar spine are affected, the symptoms and signs are often referred to as sciatica.
Read When to See a Surgeon for Spinal Stenosis on Spine-health.com
In most but not all cases, the symptoms of spinal osteoarthritis come and go, becoming worse and more frequent over months or years. If back pain comes on suddenly, it is more likely to be caused by a strained muscle or other trauma or condition, and not by spine osteoarthritis.
Early recognition of symptoms and appropriate treatment can dramatically slow or eliminate the progression of osteoarthritis symptoms.
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Heat/cold Therapy For Temporary Pain Relief Of Spinal Arthritis
People with osteoarthritis often find that warmth, through warm towels or hot packs applied to the joint, or a warm bath or shower, can relieve pain and stiffness. Heat is known to help reduce inflammation and swelling in the joints and can help improve circulation. Water therapy in a heated pool or whirlpool may also help.
In some cases, cold, through cold packs or a bag of ice or frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel, can relieve pain or numb the sore area.
Often, applying heat for 20 minutes before doing an exercise routine or activity, and following up with applying cold to the affected area afterwards, will help alleviate activity and exercise related pain in the joints.
A doctor or physical therapist should be consulted to determine if heat, cold, or a combination of the two is the best treatment.
How Your Back Works
The spine, which is also called the backbone or spinal column, is one of the strongest parts of the body and gives us a great deal of flexibility and strength.
Its made up of 24 bones, known as vertebrae, one sitting on top of the other. These bones have discs in between and lots of strong ligaments and muscles around them for support. There are also the bones in the tailbone at the bottom of the back, which are fused together and have no discs in between.
On either side of the spine, running from top to bottom, are many small joints called the facet joints.
The spinal cord passes inside the vertebrae, which protect it.
The spinal cord connects to the brain through the base of the skull and to the rest of the body by nerves that pass through spaces between the bones of the spine. These nerves are also known as nerve roots.
As you grow older, the structures of your spine, such as the joints, discs and ligaments, age as well. The structures remain strong but its usual for your back to get stiffer as you get older.
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Symptoms Of Arthritis In Lower Back And Hips
When we think of arthritis, we think of joint issues in senior people. While senior citizens do suffer the most from arthritis, it isnt exclusive to any age group, nor is it a single condition describing a specific type of joint related issue. There are several different types of arthritis that affect different age groups.
If you are someone who experiences chronic joint pain, you should be aware of arthritis. In this article, well try to give you a detailed description of arthritis, and its symptoms in lower back and hips.
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