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.
Treating Arthritis In The Spine
Osteoarthritis in the lumbar spine causes pain that often radiates down through the lower body, including the pelvis, groin, buttocks, and thighs. Treatment usually involves physical therapy or specific exercises designed to strengthen your core . This can include yoga, aquatic therapy, or similar strengthening exercise routines.
Patients with lumbar osteoarthritis may also go on a regimen of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs , such as acetaminophen. If the pain becomes too severe, corticosteroid injections may alleviate the pain. There is also a radiofrequency neurotomy procedure, where radio waves are used to create heat that disrupts the medial nerves ability to transmit pain signals.
Neck pain from osteoarthritis, called cervical spondylosis, is caused by a deterioration of the discs and joint cartilage in the cervical spine or neck bones. Its most common in older patients, though younger people can develop cervical spondylosis. Some patients have little to no symptoms. Others may have stiffness or pain in the neck or shoulders or between the shoulder blades.
Treatment for cervical spondylosis can range from NSAIDs pain medications to corticosteroid injections. Patients may also use muscle-relaxing medication.
In severe cases of osteoarthritis, surgery may be needed to repair herniated or degenerated discs or to remove bone spurs from the spine. Recovering can take up to six months and requires physical therapy to return a proper range of motion.
How Is Ankylosing Spondylitis Diagnosed
There isnt a test that definitively diagnoses ankylosing spondylitis. After reviewing your symptoms and family history, your healthcare provider will perform a physical exam. Your provider may order one or more of these tests to help guide diagnosis:
- Imaging scans:Magnetic resonance imaging scans can detect spine problems earlier than traditional X-rays. Still, your provider may order spine X-rays to check for arthritis or rule out other problems.
- Blood tests: Blood tests can check for the presence of the HLA-B27 gene. About 8% of people of European descent have this gene, but only a quarter of them develop ankylosing spondylitis.
Don’t Miss: What Herb Or Vitamin Is Good For Arthritis
When Back Pain May Mean Arthritis
Many forms of arthritis and related conditions can cause back pain, stiffness and swelling.
About 80% of back pain is acute and usually lasts one to seven days. Otherwise, its considered chronic and may be caused by arthritis. The lower back is the most common site of arthritis back pain. Several types of arthritis are part of a group of conditions called spondylarthropathies . Spondylarthropathies can affect adults and children.
If you are experiencing pain, swelling and stiffness in the back, you may have one of the following types of arthritis or related conditions.
Axial spondyloarthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease that primarily affects hip joints and the joint that connects the bone at the bottom of the spine to the pelvis .
There are two types of axSpA: Radiographic axSpA includes damage to the sacroiliac joints and spine that can be seen on X-rays, and nonradiographic axSpA does not include damage you can see on X-rays but it may show up on magnetic resonance images .
Psoriatic arthritis is a form of arthritis that affects joints and usually the skin . For about 20 percent of people with PsA, the disease involves the spine . In some cases, bony overgrowth can cause two or more vertebrae to grow together , causing stiffness.
Getting a Proper Diagnosis
Overview Of Medications Used To Treat Spinal Arthritis A Common Cause Of Back Pain Also Called Osteoarthritis Or Spondylosis
The type of arthritis that more commonly affects the spine is osteoarthritis, also called spondylosis. Other types of arthritis that are inflammatory in nature include rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. Here, youll learn about medications for osteoarthritis that affects your neck , mid back , and/or low back .
It is not uncommon for arthritic neck or back pain to be accompanied by other symptoms, such as tingling sensations, numbness, or muscle spasms. Photo Source: 123RF.com.
You May Like: What Are Usually The First Signs Of Rheumatoid Arthritis
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.
What Are The Different Types Of Arthritis That Affect The Back
There are several types of arthritis. The different types of arthritis that may affect the back or neck include
- Osteoarthritis of the spine: This is noninflammatory, degenerative arthritis. It is the most common form of arthritis that affects the back. Wear and tear seem to be the reason that osteoarthritis develops.
- Rheumatoid arthritis of the spine: This is an autoimmune disorder where the lining of the joints is affected. Its a type of inflammatory arthritis because wear and tear on the joints is not involved.
- Fibromyalgia: This causes chronic, widespread muscle pain and fatigue.
- Spondyloarthritis: This is a group of inflammatory diseases that affects both the joints and the areas where the ligaments and tendons are attached to the bones. There are several forms of spondyloarthritis, including
- Ankylosing spondylitis: This is a type of spinal arthritis that causes inflammation of the vertebrae and the joints at the base of the spine.
- Psoriatic arthritis: This is an autoimmune disorder triggered by psoriasis and it is characterized by an itchy, scaly rash.
- Reactive arthritis: In this type of arthritis, a gastrointestinal or genital infection probably triggers joint inflammation. It usually affects the lower back.
- Enteropathic arthritis: This is a type of arthritis linked to inflammatory bowel disease.
- Undifferentiated spondyloarthritis
You May Like: How To Know If You Have Arthritis In Knee
Nonsurgical Treatment For Osteoarthritis Of The Spine
If osteoarthritis of the spine is diagnosed early, doctors may recommend nonsurgical treatment to manage symptoms. NYU Langone physicians, physical therapists, and physiatrists, who specialize in rehabilitation medicine, can help you relieve pain and stiffness, improve flexibility, and build strength in muscles that support the spine.
These treatments do not reverse damage to cartilage or bone or prevent the progression of osteoarthritis, but they may make it possible for you to continue an active lifestyle.
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
Recommended Reading: Can Arthritis Cause Leg Swelling
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.
- When sleeping,
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.
Get Started With Princeton Orthopaedic Associates
Princeton Orthopaedic Associates has doctors and nursing teams dedicated to treating spinal pain due to arthritis. Our team provides exceptional diagnosis, treatment, and recovery support from your first visit to your last. We know that each patient is unique, which is why we tailor every treatment plan specifically for you and your needs.
Contact Princeton Orthopaedic Associates to find out how we can help you live without the pain of spinal arthritis.
Recommended Reading: How To Treat Arthritis In Legs
Alternate Remedies For Rheumatoid Arthritis
More and more people are moving toward homeopathic treatments instead of relying on overpriced prescription medications and costly surgeries many of which individuals, especially those without insurance, cannot afford. Not only that, many people are becoming wary of putting so many manufactured chemicals in their bodies on a regular basis. It seems like everything we ingest nowadays is somehow engineered instead of natural. Perhaps returning to nature is a better alternative than the usual go-to treatments. Well discuss the use and effectiveness of seven natural remedies for RA. Well also share what our research has found as far as success rates go.
1. CinnamonProponents of cinnamon in alleviating symptoms of RA contribute its healing powers to the anti-inflammatory qualities of cinnamon bark. In addition, cinnamon is noted to help with aches and pains, especially when they are worse with cold or cold weather.
The Problem? Cinnamon in large doses can be detrimental to your health. In addition, cinnamon has been found to have potential harmful effects to pregnant women and may negatively react with your bodys natural blood clotting as well as interacts with any blood thinning medications you are taking.
2. Willow BarkWillow bark, as the name quite literally says, is the bark off of willow trees. This bark has been found to have anti-inflammatory properties which assist with pain relief. In fact, it has very similar qualities to everyday aspirin.
What Questions Should I Ask My Doctor
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.
You May Like: Does Rheumatoid Arthritis Cause Skin Problems
Pain And Other Symptoms Of Spinal Osteoarthritis
The intensity and type of pain people experience as a result of arthritis in the spine varies from mild to severe, and occasional to episodic to chronic. Each type of pain is treated differently. Of course, it is not uncommon for arthritic neck or back pain to be accompanied by other symptoms, such as tingling sensations, numbness, or muscle spasms. Learn more about the range of osteoarthritis symptoms.
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.
You May Like: How To Tell If You Have Arthritis In Your Hip
Physical Therapy For Back Arthritis Information Exercises And More
You cant move like you used to. The pain in your back has gone from uncomfortable to debilitating.
Or maybe you are frustrated by tingling and numbness in your arms and legs. You keep wishing there was something you could do about it.
Getting up every morning shouldnt be this hard. Tired of your stiff back keeping you from doing the things you love?
Physical therapy and fitness coaching can help you regain motion and manage symptoms of back arthritis.
Keep reading to find out how physical therapy for back arthritis can help you get back to enjoying life.
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.
Recommended Reading: What Helps With Arthritis In Back
Exceptional Care For Patients With Arthritis In Spine
The joints of the spine make it possible for us to stand, walk, bend, twist and stretch. A flexible substance called cartilage acts as a cushion between each of the small bones that make up the spine and facilitates smooth, pain-free movement. If this cartilage breaks down due to age, overuse or disease, it can lead to spinal arthritis with symptoms of inflammation, stiffness, severe pain and restricted mobility.
Your health is important. Dont delay care.
If the pain and symptoms of spine arthritis are limiting your ability to enjoy life, we can help. Call today to schedule an appointment with a UH spine specialist.
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 doesnt always cause pain, and many people have no noticeable symptoms.
You May Like: What Can You Do To Help Arthritis In Your Knees
Can Lumbar Arthritis Be Prevented
Your age, family history, and gender can all contribute to arthritis development. Although these factors are outside of your control, there are certain things that you can do to limit the pressure on your vertebrae. Reduced pressure may prevent flares of lumbar arthritis or other symptoms.
To reduce your risk of flare-ups:
Maintain a healthy weight. Carrying excess weight can put unnecessary stress on your joints.
Opt for low-impact exercise. Stretching, yoga, and swimming can all relieve pressure on your back.
Move with care. When dealing with heavy objects, be sure to lift with your knees and not with your back.
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.
You May Like: Does Diet Affect Arthritis Pain