Arthritis of the spine is a painful reality for many people. Generally striking older patients, it can be seen even in the young. The lumbar (lower back) area of the spine is the one most prone to arthritis. Knowledge is power, so this post is dedicated to exploring the various types of spinal arthritis and how they can manifest.
Arthritic conditions attack and inflame joints in the body, from the hands to the feet and every joint in between. There are several types of arthritis which can affect spinal function, some of which are particular to this crucial part of your body.
We’ll start with the most common form of arthritis. Osteoarthritis is even more common in women than it is in men. Cartilage in the joints prevents bones from making contact with one another and causing damage. When it’s eroded or destroyed by osteoarthritis, the result is severe pain and swelling.
When bone spurs develop, they can place pressure on nerves local to the site of the condition. The spinal canal may experience narrowing due to bony growths caused by osteoarthritis.
Inflammation of the spine
The clinical term “ankylosing” is translated as “stiff.” This type of spinal arthritis is found in the hip and pelvic joints, manifesting in the lumbar portion of your spine.
Where bone, ligament and muscle meet is where this type of arthritis makes a painful home. The stiffness experienced by ankylosing spondylitis (inflammation of the spine) patients can also be responsible for the development of bone spurs (see above).
This systemic illness results from dysfunction in the immune system. It literally turns the body on itself, causing it to misidentify protective membranes around our joints as hostile and destroy them. While rheumatoid arthritis is most commonly found in the hips, feet and hands, it can also be seen in the spinal column.
The destruction of protective membranes in the spine causes vertebrae to rub against one another, resulting in extreme pain and producing a pressure which affects nerves in the cervical and lumbar region of the spine.
“Stenosis” means “narrowing.” As we discussed earlier, this narrowing happens when bone spurs are present and cause the spinal canal to narrow. Stenosis has the effect of compressing spinal nerves.
Because the nerves in our spines serve various purposes in overall function, the symptomatic profile for stenosis can vary. It can manifest as anything from pain which radiates outward from the affected area, sciatica, cramping, restless legs, to bladder and bowel problems.
As you can see from this brief outline of arthritic conditions affecting the spine, they range in intensity and severity. For that reason, clinical responses are diverse. Everything from exercise to medication to physical therapy may be prescribed. For the most severe types of spinal arthritis, your spine specialist may recommend surgery.
Are you suffering from spinal arthritis?
If you suspect you may have one of the conditions described in this post, contact the spinal specialists at Jersey Spine Associates. Diagnosis is the first step toward feeling more like yourself. Once diagnosed, our Associates will tailor a treatment plan to your specific condition and its symptoms.