Spine Arthritis Symptoms and Associated Pain



March 18, 2011

What is back arthritis or spine arthritis?

Arthritis is a medical term referring to inflammation of a joint. Spine arthritis, also known as back arthritis, is commonly used to refer to inflammation of one or multiple joints of the spine.

Arthritis is a common cause of chronic back pain. The Centers for Diseases Controls and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) project that by 2030, arthritis will affect 67 million Americans, which is 25 percent of the US population.

What are the most common types of arthritis?

There are many different types of arthritis with varied symptoms. The following are the most common types of back arthritis/spine arthritis.

Osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. It’s a non-inflammatory (mechanical) degenerative joint disease affecting cartilage, the hard but smooth tissue covering the ends of bones. Osteoarthritis is commonly seen in older people whose cartilage wears off over the years. Joint injuries can also cause osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis most commonly affects hands, knees, hips, and the spine.

Rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is the second most common type of arthritis. Different from osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory joint disease. It occurs when the body’s immune system starts to attack the membrane lining of the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis often affects the wrist and finer joints, but it can also affect bones, joints of other parts of the body such as the neck (cervical spine), as well as internal organs.

Spondyloarthritis. Spondyloarthritis refers to a family of inflammatory rheumatic diseases that affect the spine, as well as hips, shoulders, knees, and ankles. It can cause back pain and stiffness, as well as inflammation in the eyes, skin, lungs, and heart valves. Spondyloarthritis often affects those in their teens and 20s, and it’s one of the most important causes of chronic back pain in younger people who are active in playing sports. Spondyloarthritis-caused back pain generally improves after physical activity, but worsens after rest.

What are the back arthritis/spine arthritis symptoms?

The most common back arthritis/spine arthritis symptoms include back pain and stiffness, especially in the morning. Other symptoms may include fatigue and loss of function of the affected joints.

In some cases, lower back osteoarthritis can cause spinal deformity that puts pressure on the exiting nerves, resulting in weakness, tingling, or numbness in the legs. In severe cases, osteoarthritis can even affect bladder and bowel function.

In addition to inflammatory back pain and stiffness, fatigue, and loss of function in the joints, symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis in the spine may also include joint swelling and fever.

The main symptom of spondyloarthritis is dull lower back or buttock/hip pain. Other symptoms of spondyloarthritis include morning stiffness, limited spinal mobility, and fatigue.

What are the treatment options for back arthritis/spine arthritis?

Exercise is a key component of a treatment plan for patients with back arthritis. However, patients with spondyloarthritis are at high risk of spinal fracture and spinal cord injury; patients with spondyloarthritis should therefore take extra caution when exercising. Spondyloarthritis-caused back pain also responds well to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

Other conservative treatment options for back arthritis/spine arthritis include physical therapy, weight control to reduce joint stress, epidural injections, and alternative treatments such as acupuncture.

Patients with severe back arthritis may need surgical treatment to correct spinal deformities or to get rid of the bone spurs pinching the nerves. Minimally invasive spine surgery performed at Atlantic Spinal Care has been proven safe and effective in treating back pain caused by a wide range of spinal disorders. If you are suffering from back arthritis/spine arthritis, contact us today and find out how we can help relieve your back pain.