Arthritis in Back - Spinal Arthritis Overview

Arthritis in Back - Spinal Arthritis Overview

Spinal arthritis is a medical condition that can be challenging to treat. The treatment options for this condition may vary, ranging from basic medication and physical therapy to advanced surgeries, particularly for osteoporosis of the spine.
This disease is prevalent among the elderly population, but it can affect people of all ages. If you think you are experiencing symptoms of spinal arthritis, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment.

Keep scrolling to learn more about spinal Arthritis.

What is Spinal Arthritis?

The inflammation of the facet joints on the spine or sacroiliac joints, which connect the pelvis and spine, causes exaggerated wear and tear in these joints, leading to chronic back pain that is commonly made worse by activity.

It is also important to remember that other symptoms are associated with this painful condition, such as shoulder blade pain, local muscle spasm (trunk), numbness in the legs, loss of strength over time, and altered sensation below the sacrum.

Types of Arthritis of the Spine

Caring for Arthritis varies in difficulty depending on the type. Degenerative and inflammatory Arthritis are two varieties of Arthritis that affect the spine. We will review the different signs of each below.

Osteoarthritis of the Spine

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common type of Arthritis associated with the spine. It most often occurs in the lower back. The degenerative nature of OA and how it negatively affects the human body make it a growing concern among older adults, but younger adults are not immune to the pain and stiffness associated with OA either.

Factors such as being active or previously injured can lead to back pain stemming from OA.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is not brought on by degeneration in the spine as previously thought. RA has more to do with inflammation, which leads to a breakdown in the connective tissues and can also bring about some pain and stiffness over time.

It is most common in other parts of the body, including the knees and hands; however, we can see that pain and stiffness involving the spine can be brought on by inflammatory problems surrounding certain joints and discs inside one's back.


There are many forms of Spondyloarthritis, which is a form of rheumatism including Ankylosing Spondylitis, Psoriatic Arthritis, Reactive Arthritis (due to infection), and Enteropathic Arthritis (due to irritable bowel syndrome).

These conditions may be inflammatory but impact more than just the joints. Surrounding ligaments and tendons can become stiff as well.

Ankylosing spondylitis:

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the joints of the spine, sacroiliac joints, and other parts of the body. It is a type of spondyloarthritis, a group of diseases that affect the joints of the spine and peripheral joints.

The main symptom of AS is pain and stiffness in the spine, which is often worse in the morning. The pain can also radiate to the neck, shoulders, hips, and knees. Other symptoms of AS include fatigue, low-grade fever, and loss of appetite.

Psoriatic Arthritis:

Psoriatic Arthritis (PsA) is a type of Arthritis that affects people with psoriasis, a skin condition that causes red, scaly patches on the skin. PsA can also affect the joints, causing pain, stiffness, swelling, and inflammation.

The exact cause of PsA is unknown, but it is thought to be an autoimmune disease, meaning that the body's immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue. In the case of PsA, the immune system attacks the joints and the tissues that connect the joints to bones (entheses).

PsA can affect any joint in the body, but it most commonly affects the hands, feet, spine, and sacroiliac joints (the joints that connect the spine to the pelvis). The symptoms of PsA can vary from person to person and range from mild to severe.

Symptoms of Spinal Arthritis

Regardless of which type of Arthritis you have, the most common symptoms are low back pain, neck pain, and stiffness. Take a look at these other signs and symptoms to look out for:

  • A grinding sensation within the spine itself with movement
  • Pain and inflammation in other areas of the body (especially with RA) 
  • Headaches
  • Stiffness that is worst in the morning and improves with movement (OA)
  • Swelling in the affected area
  • Pain, numbness, or tingling along with the affected nerve levels
  • Loss of spine flexibility that results in extreme stiffness or an inability to obtain an upright posture
  • Back pain- particularly of the lower back or cervical spine
  • Tenderness to touch

Causes & Risk Factors

Unfortunately, the causes of most degenerative and autoimmune disorders are poorly understood. Therefore, it can take time to grasp the origins of spine disease and what risk factors contribute to Arthritis of the spine specifically. However, there are a few general risk factors that are often common with the onset of spinal Arthritis, including:

  • Obesity or being overweight
  • Diabetes
  • Wear and tear
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Autoimmune disease (RA and other diseases)
  • Infection
  • Psoriasis
  • Aging
  • Lyme disease
  • Tuberculosis
  • Inflammatory conditions such as,
  • Poor stress management
  • Past injury to the spine
  • Gout

Treating Spinal Arthritis

The treatment for spinal Arthritis depends on the type of Arthritis, the severity of the symptoms, and the patient's overall health. Some common treatments include:

  • Medications: There are a variety of medications that can help to relieve the symptoms of spinal Arthritis. These include over-the-counter pain relievers, anti-inflammatory drugs, and steroids.
  • Physical therapy: Physical therapy can help to improve the range of motion and strength of the spine. It can also help teach patients exercises they can do at home to manage their symptoms.
  • Injections: Injections of steroids or other medications can help to relieve pain and inflammation in the spine.
  • Surgery: Surgery may be an option for people with severe spinal Arthritis that does not respond to other treatments. Various surgical procedures can be used to treat spinal Arthritis, depending on the specific location and severity of the damage.

In addition to medical treatments, there are a number of things that people with spinal Arthritis can do to help manage their symptoms:

  • Stay active: Exercise can help to keep the joints strong and flexible. However, avoiding activities that put too much stress on the spine is important.
  • Maintain a healthy weight: Obesity puts extra stress on the joints.
  • Quit smoking: Smoking can damage cartilage and joints.
  • Get regular checkups: See your doctor regularly for checkups and early diagnosis of any medical conditions that may increase your risk of spinal Arthritis.

By following these tips, people with spinal Arthritis can improve their quality of life and manage their symptoms.

Preventing spinal Arthritis

Here are some things you can do to help prevent spinal Arthritis:

  • Stay active: Exercise can help to keep your joints strong and flexible.
  • Maintain a healthy weight: Obesity puts extra stress on your joints.
  • Quit smoking: Smoking can damage cartilage and joints.
  • Eat a healthy diet: A healthy diet can help to reduce inflammation.
  • Get regular checkups: See your doctor regularly for checkups and early diagnosis of any medical conditions that may increase your risk of spinal Arthritis.

Living with Spinal Arthritis

If you choose to ignore the pain in your joints, it can quickly become a chronic issue. If left untreated, Arthritis can lead to additional health-related issues, such as spinal stenosis (pressure on the nerve roots or spinal cord from bone spurs and Osteoarthritis), radiculopathy (nerve damage and irritation), and many more!

To avoid living an ache-inducing life and to receive the care you need for your back pain, a professional should be consulted when dealing with back problems. Over-the-counter options, such as NSAIDs and pain relievers, physical therapy, cold therapy packs, heat therapy with a herbal heating pad, and lifestyle changes, are considered to treat symptoms of arthritis-like back discomfort.

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