Osteoarthritis of the Spine: What is it?


Osteoarthritis is the medical term used to address the degenerative joint disease. With this condition, patients’ protective cartilage wears down, resulting in swelling and pain. Osteoarthritis comes in various types and levels of severity and spinal osteoarthritis is on the list.

What is spinal osteoarthritis?

Spinal osteoarthritis refers to osteoarthritis of the spine. Sufferers of spinal osteoarthritis experience a breakdown of the cartilage of the joints and discs in the neck and lower back. Sometimes, this condition also brings about bone spurs that put extra pressure on the nerves of the spine, causing pain and weakness in the limbs.

Why do people develop osteoarthritis of the spine?

Normally, osteoarthritis occurs when people grow old. In young people, the reasons behind this condition are:

  • An injury or trauma to a joint
  • A genetic defect involving cartilage

Before the age of 45, men are more likely to have osteoarthritis. However, after the age of 45,  women are more prone to osteoarthritis. This condition is also more common among those who are overweight or obese. Also, those whose jobs or daily activities involve constant stress on certain joints are more likely to develop osteoarthritis.

What are the symptoms of osteoarthritis of the spine?

Spinal osteoarthritis comes along with many symptoms, including:

  • Back and neck pain
  • Back and neck stiffness
  • Tingling, numbness, or weakness in arms and legs
  • Back popping or crunching
  • Hunched or slouched appearance
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness

Besides those physical effects, spinal osteoarthritis also results in problems in social and emotional affairs. This is because osteoarthritis patients have to suffer from emotional distress, always feeling depressed or helpless.

How to determine if you have spinal osteoarthritis?

To know precisely if a person is having osteoarthritis of the spine, the doctor needs to perform some certain tests. Those tests include:

  • X-rays test: to look for bone damage, bone spurs, and loss of cartilage or disc. However, through this test, early damage to cartilage can not be found.
  • Blood tests: to know if the patients are having other diseases.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): to see damage to discs or narrowing of areas where there are spinal nerves.

How to cope with spinal osteoarthritis?

Treatments for spinal osteoarthritis aim to relieve the pain and discomfort, helping the patients to live an easier life.

Initial treatment includes building a healthy lifestyle by:

Maintaining a healthy weight

If needed, the patient must lose some extra fat to reduce the stress putting on their affected joints.

Doing exercise regularly

There are many types of exercise suitable for osteoarthritis patients, such as swimming, walking, and water aerobics. Those activities will help:

There are also useful remedies that osteoarthritis patients can make use of, including:

  • Massage
  • Acupuncture
  • Heat or cold compresses
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
  • Nutritional supplements

However, the most helpful and effective way to break free from those pain and discomfort is to use pain medications. Sufferers of spinal osteoarthritis can find relieve in:

  • Over-the-counter products
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Example include meloxicam, aspirin, naproxen sodium, and ibuprofen.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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