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Discover the treatments for arthritis of the spine that Laser Spine Institute offers at our St. Louis surgery center

Arthritis of the spine is a condition that occurs in the facet joints that connect the vertebrae and can be painful enough to limit a person’s day-to-day activities. In the U.S., nearly 90 percent of people ages 55 and older experience some form of arthritis, which can affect any joint in the body.

Defining arthritis of the spine

Also referred to as spinal osteoarthritis, arthritis of the spine is a condition in which the cartilage in the facet joints wears down. Normal cartilage allows for bones to glide smoothly within a joint with little friction, so when it wears down, the bones can begin to grind together. This can cause inflammation and the formation of bone spurs.

How is arthritis of the spine diagnosed?

Accurately diagnosing arthritis of the spine can be a difficult task because of the many other degenerative spinal conditions which produce similar symptoms. Your physician will likely utilize a three-step process that starts with a thorough review of your medical and family history to find clues that might point to spinal osteoarthritis as the source of your symptoms. Next, your physician will perform a thorough back and neck examination to test your flexibility and range of motion. Finally, tests such as an MRI, CT scan, X-ray or bone scan can be used to accurately identify the cause of your discomfort.

Arthritis of the spine causes and risk factors

Arthritis of the spine can be caused by rheumatoid arthritis, which is an autoimmune disease of connective tissue. However, in most patients, the cause of spinal arthritis is the natural degeneration of the spine as a result of aging. This type of arthritis is called osteoarthritis and it can develop in any joint in the body, including the facet joints in the spine. The facet joints in the spine allow us to bend and twist freely, and it’s common for the cartilage in facet joints to wear down due to years of use.

Identifying the symptoms of arthritis of the spine

The most common symptoms of arthritis of the spine are typically stiffness and pain in the neck or back. Numbness, limited range of motion and difficulty bending can also occur, depending on the location and severity of the arthritis. This condition is most common in the neck and lower back – the areas that experience the most day-to-day movement.

What are the treatment options for arthritis of the spine?

Some treatment options to consider first for arthritis of the spine are nonsurgical therapies such as pain and anti-inflammatory medications, hot and cold compresses, low-impact exercises and physical therapy. You may also choose to combine these options with alternative treatments like chiropractic care, yoga, acupressure and more, which may help to reduce the symptoms you are experiencing. Just make sure to consult with your doctor about any alternative treatments you may be considering.

Should I consider surgery for arthritis of the spine?

The majority of patients diagnosed with arthritis of the spine find the relief they are looking for after several weeks or months of conservative and alternative treatments. When spinal osteoarthritis doesn’t respond to nonsurgical treatment, however, Laser Spine Institute in St. Louis, MO, may be able to help. We offer minimally invasive spine surgery that is often the clinically appropriate first choice and provides many advantages versus open neck or back surgery.^

Contact us today for a no-cost MRI review* to find out if you may be a candidate for our outpatient surgery.