Yes, You Can Get Arthritis in Your Spine

Yes, You Can Get Arthritis in Your Spine

Does the phrase “Oh, my aching back” apply to you? If so, visit our board-certified orthopedic surgeon Jonathan Shults with Coastal Empire Orthopedics. Dr. Shults promptly diagnoses the cause of your back pain after reviewing your medical history, examining you, and conducting needed tests such as X-rays, MRIs, or other diagnostic tests. 

If your back pain stems from arthritis in your spine, there are several noninvasive treatments we can use to improve your mobility and ease your pain. Most patients get better with conservative treatments. If conservative approaches don't work, we can perform surgery.

How did I get arthritis in my spine? 

Your back has a tough job. It helps carry your body weight your entire life. If you’ve had a physical job for a number of years that involved lifting, bending, and/or pulling, you’ve put extra wear-and-tear on your spine aside from the normal wear-and-tear involved in aging. That extra exertion could lead to spinal arthritis. 

Alternatively, if you’ve suffered a back injury, you might develop arthritis as a result of the trauma. 

Your family history is likely at play as well. You may be more prone to arthritis than others due to the makeup of your genes. And if you have certain medical conditions such as diabetes, you’re more at risk too. 

Smoking also increases your risk of arthritis. It’s linked to a type of inflammatory arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, where inflammation in the joints and ligaments in your back causes stiffness.

What has happened to my spine because of arthritis? 

Each of your spinal vertebra contains a facet joint that helps it move. You also have tough cartilage tissue between each vertebra and a disc that provides a cushion so the vertebrae don’t rub together. Cartilage can break down from age and wear-and-tear, and your spinal discs may dry out and get thinner as well. This places more pressure on the facet joints, leading to more cartilage breakdown. 

Spinal arthritis can result in painful bone spurs. Bone spurs can create pinched peripheral nerves leading from the spine or a condition called spinal stenosis, both of which can cause pain. 

You could also have arthritis in the sacroiliac joints where the spine and the pelvis join together. Arthritis is very common in the lower spine. If you’ve had jobs where you had to stand for hours, such as a teacher, nurse, or a trades worker, your lumbar spine is at increased risk of arthritis because of the increased pressure on it from standing. 

Lifestyle treatments for spinal arthritis 

LIfestyle habits can help relieve spinal arthritis symptoms in conjunction with medical treatment. 

If you have a flare-up and are in pain, give yourself a rest period of a few days. Apply ice off and on. If you feel your muscles seize up, apply heat.

Are you overweight or obese? Your doctor may have already recommended losing weight. The extra weight places undue pressure on your spine and speeds cartilage breakdown. Even losing 5% of your body weight may help ease symptoms. 

Research is clear: moderate exercise reduces arthritis pain. Commit to an exercise regimen that you can stick to. Pick an activity you like. Experts recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate low-impact physical activity each week. 

Medical treatments for spinal arthritis 

Dr. Shults uses a variety of medical treatments to ease your arthritis symptoms. If you’re in severe pain, he can administer a cortisone injection to calm severe inflammation. Once the inflammation subsides, you may go to a series of physical therapy appointments. It’s important that you continue to perform the exercises at home that your therapist shows you during your therapy sessions. 

Dr. Shults may recommend regenerative medicine to ease your spinal arthritis if he thinks it will help you. If other methods don’t work, Dr. Shults may recommend surgery. Spinal fusion and laminectomy are two surgical options, depending on your particular condition. 

Call Coastal Empire Orthopedics today or book an appointment online for expert arthritis care in Savannah, Georgia. 

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