What is Spinal Osteoarthritis?

Just about all of us over the age of 45 or 50 have arthritis. You read that right, but it’s not the type you think of where a person’s joints become so painful it’s hard to function. The immune system mistakenly starts attacking your own joints. That’s rheumatoid arthritis.

No, for most all of us who have been active in our lives we have some degree of osteoarthritis. That is the degenerative form of arthritis, where your joints are simply showing their age and the wear and tear of decades of use. Osteoarthritis is colloquially known as “wear and tear” arthritis.” At Coastal Spine we address the effects of spinal osteoarthritis.

What is spinal osteoarthritis?

This form of arthritis in the spine causes inflammation of the spinal facet joints. These joints in the lower back, the lumbar spine, are the most likely to become somewhat arthritic. As the facet joints wear, bone spurs can be produced and these often put pressure on the nerve roots exiting the spinal column. This leads to pain that can radiate down into the legs, and over time can create weakness as the nerve is damaged.

What symptoms will I have with spinal osteoarthritis?

If you have spinal osteoarthritis, you likely have a combination of these symptoms:

  • Back and/or neck stiffness and pain that is usually the worst when first waking up
  • Pain that subsides during the day, but tends to return at night
  • Pain that disrupts sleep
  • Weakness or numbness in the legs or arms if a nerve is being impinged
  • Swelling and warmth in one or more joints, particularly accompanying low pressure weather systems

How we treat spinal osteoarthritis

Spinal arthritis can really impact quality of life, keeping patients from many activities they love, and bleeding over to affect their mental outlook. Our goal at Coastal Spine is to get you back to a healthy, pain-free lifestyle.

We may be able to get you there with conservative treatments; that’s always where we start (except in cases of severe trauma). These could be as simple as postural support and training, maybe a weight-loss program if the patient is overweight. Exercise of all types is beneficial, as it strengthens the muscles that support the joints, strengthens the heart and circulatory systems, and increases flexibility.

We include exercises that involve walking, swimming, and water aerobics. We also include anti-inflammatory pain medications. Sometimes, epidural steroid injections are effective.

If these treatments aren’t relieving the patient’s pain, we may opt for surgery that relieves the pressure on the nerve roots. There are various surgical methods, from trimming a bulging spinal disc to removing the part of the facet joint that is pressing on the nerve. Our three spine surgeons have extensive experience with these procedures. Plus, evolving technology and the expansion of minimally invasive techniques continue to make these surgeries safer and far easier to recover from afterwards.

If you’re suffering from spinal osteoarthritis, there’s no reason to simply tolerate the pain. Call the team at Coastal Spine, (856) 222-4444. We have four locations across New Jersey to ease your pain.

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