Arthritis is one of the most common medical conditions that affects individuals over the age of 50, and while you’ve probably heard about the condition affecting the knee or hip, those aren’t the only joints prone to the arthritis. Your facet joints in your spine can also develop arthritis, and considering how often you use your spine, it can be quite the irritating condition. In today’s blog, we take a closer look at why spinal arthritis develops and how the condition can be treated by a spine specialist.
Why Does Spinal Arthritis Develop?
Spinal arthritis is caused by inflammation in the facet joints of your spine. Oftentimes this inflammation is due to overstress and wear and tear on the joints, but other underlying causes include autoimmune disorders and infection. Arthritis can develop in any area of the spine, but based on the way stress is often channeled through the spine, it most commonly affects the cervical and lumbar portions.
Factors that can increase your risk for spinal arthritis include:
- Old age
- Excess weight
- Underlying autoimmune conditions
- Prolonged manual labor over the years
Symptoms of arthritis vary based on the type of arthritis you’re dealing with, be it osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, spondyloarthritis, psoriatic arthritis or another inflammatory arthritis condition, but common symptoms tend to include pain, stiffness, swelling, tenderness, shooting discomfort, muscle fatigue and inhibited spinal flexibility.
Treating Spinal Arthritis
If you suspect that you’re dealing with spinal arthritis, contact a spinal specialist. They’ll listen to your symptoms, review your medical history, conduct a physical exam and may order imaging tests to confirm a diagnosis. They can also order blood tests to look for rheumatoid arthritis or autoimmune issues that could be affecting your spine. Once they have pinpointed the source and the type of arthritis you’re dealing with, a treatment plan can be devised.
Joint damage from arthritis is irreversible, so treatment focuses on calming symptoms and preventing further degeneration. This is often accomplished through a combination of:
- Corticosteroid injections
- Physical therapy
- Lifestyle changes
- Weight loss
- Quitting smoking
- Postural changes
Conservative treatments tend to do a very good job quelling discomfort and making life more enjoyable, but if pain persists, surgery might be on the table. Surgery will have the goal of removing irritating bone spurs that are contributing to joint inflammation, or by stabilizing vertebral segments to limit movement in the area. The type of surgery and the underlying goal will be determined by your root cause of arthritis, and your doctor can walk you through the specific procedure should surgery become an option.
So if you are dealing with chronic back pain or any of the symptoms listed above, reach out to Dr. Chang’s office to learn how we can help you get back to a life with less spine pain!