Osteoarthritis of the Spine

Osteoarthritis of the Spine

Osteoarthritis of the spine, also known as arthritis of the spine or degenerative joint disease, is a condition where the cartilage that protects and cushions the bones wears down over time. The cartilage breaks down specifically in the neck and lower back joints, causing discomfort, pain, and restricted range of motion. As a result of osteoarthritis, bone spurs may form which impact nerves that come from the spinal column. This condition usually affects people as they get older.

 Symptoms of Osteoarthritis of the Spine

Osteoarthritis of the spineEarly symptoms of osteoarthritis include stiffness or aching in the neck or back. Limited range of movement and weakness in the arms or legs may also occur. Back pain is generally worse when sitting or standing; lying down can give some relief. Back pain is also more pronounced in the mornings and evenings. There may be a crunching feeling or sound when the neck is moved. Daily activities will often be difficult to complete due to discomfort and pain, as well as inability to physically complete some tasks.

Causes of Osteoarthritis of the Spine

The main causes of arthritis of the spine include injury to a joint or the wearing down of cartilage as a result of age. In some cases, there may be be a genetic defect in the cartilage. There are contributing factors, which increase likelihood of this condition;  osteoarthritis more often affects people who are overweight or who have jobs that include repetitive stress on their bodies.

Diagnosing Osteoarthritis of the Spine

In addition to a physical exam and range of motion tests, a diagnosis for osteoarthritis might include blood work to detect the genetic maker which might indicate likelihood of an arthritic condition. There may also be lower body nerve and muscle-strength evaluation performed. Osteoarthritis is diagnosed by an x-ray or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), in order to find bone damage or spurs, cartilage loss, or damage to discs.

Nonsurgical Treatment Options

There are a variety of options for treating arthritis of the spine and treatment plans may combine several options, depending on the patient’s pain level, lifestyle, and needs. The first and most conservative line of treatment is ice and rest. Other treatment options include the following:

  • Physical therapy
  • Pain relievers like acetaminophen
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
  • Epidural steroid injections

Surgical Options

The most common surgical treatments for osteoarthritis are vertebral fusions and laminectomies. A minimally invasive fusion is when a bone graft is placed between the two vertebrae where the fiction is occurring. They will be secured with screws or rods in order for the bone graft and vertebrae to grow. The flexibility of the spine may not be the same as it was before the osteoarthritis occurred, but ideally, the patient will feel relief from pain and be able to move more freely.

A laminectomy or decompression surgery allows for more space between the vertebra. The lamina and the spinous process are removed in order to relieve symptoms. This procedure is a microsurgery that can be done in a minimally invasive manner. Most patients feel a reduction of pain after surgery, particularly after the six week mark.

More Information

If you have questions about arthritis of the spine or the minimally invasive spine procedures offered by DISC of Louisiana, please contact us to schedule an evaluation at one of our clinics across the south Louisiana region.


DISC of Louisiana Locations

New Orleans | Hammond | Slidell | Covington | Metairie | Baton Rouge | Gonzales

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