Spinal arthritis (also known as spinal osteoarthritis or spondylosis) is a degenerative condition that affects the facet joints of the spine. It is a condition that usually develops as a result of the normal aging process and is typically diagnosed in individuals 45-50 years old or older.
Arthritis in the back or neck can cause a variety of symptoms, and pain can range from mild discomfort to severe, debilitating pain. Unfortunately, there is no cure for any form of arthritis, but it doesn’t mean that people with the condition can no longer enjoy their lives. Learning to live with spinal arthritis may be challenging, but there are steps one can take to manage symptoms and continue to live as comfortably as possible.
Spinal arthritis is characterized by the breakdown of cartilage on the facet joints, which connect vertebrae together. As the facet joint cartilage wears away between two vertebrae, raw bone is uncovered. The affected vertebrae may grind against each other and cause symptoms of pain, stiffness, tenderness, and inflammation. A person experiencing such symptoms should consult with their doctor to learn about how pain can be alleviated by adhering to certain behaviors, such as:
• Taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – NSAIDs such as ibuprofen or naproxen can help relieve pain as well as reduce inflammation in areas of the spine affected by spinal arthritis.
• Avoiding added stress on the joints – Additional stress on the facet joints may be caused by weight gain, working in a physically strenuous occupation, overexertion during exercise, poor posture, improper lifting techniques, and inadequate spinal support.
• Maintaining a healthy diet – Eating fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and healthy Omega 3 fats can not only help keep body weight in check, but can also supplement the body with calcium and Vitamins C and D, which can help to combat spinal arthritis, weakened bones, and cartilage deterioration.
• Quitting smoking – Studies show that the toxins released when smoking tobacco actually contribute to cartilage degeneration.
People living with spinal arthritis may also benefit from other treatment methods, such as physical therapy and frequent stretching. A physical therapist can teach proper body mechanics as well as a variety of stretching exercises to relieve muscle tension, expand narrowed spaces in the spinal column, and increase blood flow to painful areas. Additionally, a physical therapist can help to focus on core muscle strengthening techniques to provide better support for the spine and reduce stress placed on the facet joints. Gentle massage may also prove beneficial in promoting relaxation, reducing tension, and encouraging blood circulation. In cases where severe pain is hindering a patient’s quality of life, a doctor may suggest stronger prescription medications, such as codeine or morphine. Facet joint injections may also be suggested, which combine the inflammation-reducing properties of steroid medication with the numbing properties of an anesthetic.
Living comfortably with spinal arthritis is possible in most cases. Individuals with the condition should talk to a doctor, who can more thoroughly explain the degenerative processes that occur in the spine and suggest treatment methods to alleviate pain and other symptoms.