Spinal Arthritis (osteoarthritis) is a condition of the spine causing pain and neuropathy. This condition is common is seniors and can occur in younger adults due to trauma or secondary to Rheumatoid Arthritis or Ankylosing Spondylitis.
This article will explain the abnormal changes that occur in the spine, the symptoms a patient would feel, the diagnostic imaging, blood work, and the specific treatments offered for spinal arthritis.
Specifically in the low back, spinal motion occurs in the back joints of the spine:
Ligaments in the body connect bone to bone. When these joints stay loose, the ligaments around the spine maintain their elasticity. This allows calcium not to be deposited in the ligaments, keeping the spine and disc healthy.
Spinalosteoarthritis occurs when the front, anterior longitudinal ligament of the spine becomes rigid, and then calcifies according to Arthritis.org. This limits motion in the spinal joints. If untreated the spine can degenerate causing disc and nerve conditions.
Do you have spinal arthritis?
Any persons having signs of spinal nerve and disc conditions in the low back should be checked for spinal arthritis. Signs can be chronic low back sharp pain, back weakness; hip or lower leg pain, weakness, tingling burning. These are the signs from Spine-Health and the cause of each:
1. Back/shoulder stiffness early in the morning that lessens throughout the day. The lack of motion when sleeping increases pressure, then pain.
2. The pain intensity can worsen in the evening. The joint pressure has built up throughout the day to cause this.
3. Sleeping can have increase in intensity of pain. A lack of motion increases pressure then pain.
4. Pain can intensify with climate cooling/barometric pressure change. Scar tissue in the joints allow pressure to build up.
5. Pain can cause achy/stiff joint and pressure. From a lack of motion, the joints build up pressure to cause this.
6. A crunchy or sandy joints with movement. From Arthritis-health this crepitus is the air bubbles popping in the joint that lead to degenerating the joints.
7. If there is irritation of the nerves, neuropathy can occur down the arms or legs. This can feel like pain, numbness, weakness, tingling.
Imaging. An X-ray is the first testingthatcan verify the stage of degeneration and/or osteoarthritis. Arthritis-Healthexplains this would show calcification in the ligaments between the spinal joints in the front or back of the vertebrae. The level of calcification can be considered bone spurs and osteophytes. Because of the high concentration of nerves radiating from the spine, even minor cartilage damage or bone spurs can translate into a lot of pain if either is in a sensitive spot. Therefore, the X-ray is just one tool to be used in conjunction with the patient interview and physical exam can be positive indications of osteoarthritis. Other secondary imaging findings can be degenerative disc disease, spondylosis and osteopenia.
An MRI or CAT scan can provide detailed soft tissue or bone structure imaging unviewable with an x-ray. This type of imaging can give you cross-sectional views details seen on 3D or 4D.
Diagnostic injections can pinpoint the source of pain to a specific joint. Using a local anesthetic can test the patient’s level, if any, of pain relief.
Labs/blood work can rule out systemic inflammatory diseases such as Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), spinal infection, cancer according to WebMD.
If testing for spinal arthritis is negative for permanent neuropathy. Then conservative, non-surgical treatment can help recovery and return a better quality of life.
1. Lessened physical activity with alternating heat and cold treatments. Lowering a person’s physical stress can help reduce the inflammation and help joints move with less pain.
2. Stretching joints and ligaments to break up any scar tissue in the joints. Starting on your own, a person can learn active stretching at home. Routinely stretch like these from Arthritis Health can help start the process of forming good habits to limit flare-ups.
3. A physical therapist can help guide you in specific stretches, correct walking, bracing, taping, manual therapies and machine therapies to reduce the symptoms of spinal arthritis and help build flexibility/strength according to Move PT.
4. A chiropractor can help diagnose severity of the condition through x-ray analysis and examination findings. Then moving spinal joints using specific chiropractic adjustments can help break up scar tissue in the joints to improve motion, reduce pressure then pain in the spinal joints according to Discover Chiropractic.
These treatments will be effective to return motion in the spinal joints. This will cause the back/nerve pain to be removed, and strength return.
Keeping the spinal motion normal beyond feeling pain allows the spinal discs to have better circulation. This will allow the spinal joints to regenerate and heal. This may take 2-4 months depending initial symptoms. An x-ray can verify the results.