What Is Spinal Arthritis?
The joints of the body are normally protected by a cushioning layer of cartilage and lubricating fluid. These protective elements combine to shield the joints from wear and tear. Injuries, genetics or the aging process can degrade these natural defenses. Without the protective shield, delicate bones will press or grind together. This bone-to-bone contact causes a number of physical changes as well as minor or even debilitating back pain. When this degradation occurs in your spine, it is referred to as spinal arthritis.
Spinal Arthritis Symptoms
As with other types of arthritis, it is not readily known why some individuals are more susceptible to spinal arthritis. Your age, physical activities and heredity are important factors that will determine which symptoms you develop and their severity.
You can develop inflammation when the two halves of a joint press together due to the lack of proper support. The inflammation increases the potential that you will also experience swelling and back pain. Your discomfort and pain will worsen if the swelling aggravates a nearby nerve.
Bone Spurs and Associated Pain
The spinal column loses its natural support when the cartilage deteriorates. Bone spurs develop on the spine to stabilize and repair the damaged bone. These natural outgrowths are not inherently harmful; however, problems can arise when a bone spur contacts or injures a nearby nerve. The irritated and inflamed nerve can cause painful symptoms throughout most of the body. Bone spurs that develop in your upper cervical spine can cause head, neck and shoulder pain. You may experience backaches and pain that radiates down your legs if a bone spur occurs in your lower spine.
Loss of Flexibility
Many people who have spinal arthritis subsequently experience a reduction in their flexibility and range of motion. Arthritis of the spine also makes it difficult to move, bend or twist. The condition can cause considerable stiffness, especially after an extended rest or sleep.
Diagnosing Spinal Arthritis
The doctor will analyze your medical history and evaluate your overall health to determine whether you have spinal arthritis. Your age and symptoms will help the doctor determine the cause of your medical condition. The doctor will order medical images of your spine to obtain other essential diagnostic information. After evaluating the images from an MRI, X-ray or CT scan, the physician can determine the reason for your back pain. At this point, your doctor can develop an effective treatment plan.
Spinal Arthritis Treatments
Conservative treatments may include hot/cold therapy, chiropractic adjustments, physical therapy and massage as well as pain and anti-inflammatory medication. If these conservative treatments do not relieve your back pain, you can explore surgical options with your doctor. Although surgery is not appropriate for resolving all spinal arthritis symptoms, it may be effective for issues like bone spurs.
To learn more about spinal arthritis and possible treatment options, contact your doctor. While there is no cure for spinal arthritis, there are ways to control your back pain and improve your quality of life.
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