Understanding Osteoarthritis of the Spine

We’ve all heard of arthritis and know that it affects the joints. But most people tend to think of arthritis in terms of aching fingers or knees. Unfortunately, osteoarthritis (as physicians call it) is a degenerative disease that can affect any joint, and that includes the facet joints that run up and down our spines.

Osteoarthritis of the spine can be extremely painful. It’s a cascading process that starts with the cartilage between the facet joints of the spine breaking down so far that the bones of the spine begin to rub together. When that happens bits of bone start accumulating, in just the same way that our skin forms calluses on pressure points. When bone accumulates in that way it is called a bone spur, and when a bone spur in the spine gets big enough that it presses on our nerves, it hurts — a lot.

When this process happens high up on your spine it’s called cervical spondylosis, and when it happens down low it’s called lumbar osteoarthritis. Either way, it results in a feeling of pain and stiffness that tends to make sleeping uncomfortable and the mornings when you first get out of bed particularly difficult.

Though osteoarthritis can happen to just about anybody, it definitely tends to come with age as our body loses some of its synovial fluid (the fluid inside of our joints and bursa), and you will be more vulnerable to the condition if you have a job or a hobby that has you repeating the same motion over and over. Both men and women are at risk, though men’s symptoms tend to first arise when they under the age of forty-five. By contrast, in women it doesn’t usually start until after they’ve gone through menopause. Being overweight is a risk factor because it puts more pressure on your joints, and if you have a family history of osteoarthritis that increases your chances too.

In addition to pain and lack of flexibility, osteoarthritis can also lead to tingling or numbness, so if you experience any of those symptoms or if your pain transitions from an annoyance to having an impact on your quality of life, it’s time to make an appointment with a lumbar spine specialist in New Jersey. Though it may all seem the same to you, a physician will be able to use their experience and knowledge, as well as diagnostic tools like an MRI or X-Ray, to tell you whether what you’re feeling is a result of osteoarthritis or whether it’s something else, like osteoporosis, degenerative disc disease, or rheumatoid arthritis.

Depending upon what your examination reveals, our spine pain physician will likely present you with a range of treatment options, including conservative approaches like massage, physical therapy or exercise therapy, to a more aggressive approach such as minimally invasive spine surgery. Whatever option you choose, it is our goal to provide you with a remedy to your discomfort and increased mobility. Contact us today.

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