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Arthritis of the spine

Arthritis of the spine, also known as spinal osteoarthritis, is a very common condition among people 50 years of age and older. It is characterized by the degeneration of the cartilage that cushions and promotes flexibility in the spine’s facet joints. As arthritis progresses, it can cause painful bone-on-bone friction and significantly reduce mobility.

What causes arthritis of the spine?

Years of wear and tear begin to take its toll on the spine, which weakens and becomes more brittle as a result of the body’s natural aging process. Everyone will go through some level of spinal degeneration in their lifetime, but only a portion will experience the substantial cartilage degeneration associated with arthritis.

What are the symptoms of spinal arthritis?

The symptoms of spinal arthritis vary depending on the extent of the disease and its specific location in the spine. However, many people with arthritis experience:

  • Neck or back stiffness and aching
  • Reduced range of motion and mobility
  • Muscle weakness or numbness in the upper or lower body

How is spinal arthritis diagnosed?

Most people who experience symptoms consistent with spinal arthritis begin by consulting their primary care physician. A doctor will likely perform a back evaluation to gauge a patient’s range of motion and flexibility. From there, diagnostic procedures may be suggested, such as an MRI, a CT scan, a bone scan or blood work. A diagnosis is usually made based on the patient’s symptoms, the results of diagnostic procedures and other factors like medical history.

How is spinal arthritis treated?

Many people with arthritis are able to find relief from their symptoms through conservative treatments, including:

  • Physical therapy to improve flexibility and increase strength
  • Pain management techniques such as medication, spinal injections, spinal bracing and other methods
  • Alternative medicines like yoga, acupuncture, acupressure, and herbal remedies

Do I need surgery?

While surgery is not recommended for many arthritis patients, those with severe symptoms that do not respond to conservative treatment may be considered candidates for spinal surgery.

Laser Spine Institute Philadelphia offers advanced alternatives to severe arthritis sufferers who don’t want to contend with the invasiveness and lengthy recovery periods associated with traditional open spine surgery. Our board-certified surgeons+ perform outpatient minimally invasive spine surgery to desensitize nerves, remove damaged portions of bone and stabilize the spine. And, because our surgeons use muscle-sparing techniques that only require a less than 1-inch incision, our patients have a smaller risk of infection and experience faster recovery periods^ when compared to those who undergo traditional open spine surgery.

To find out if you are a candidate for minimally invasive surgery at Laser Spine Institute, contact our team today for a no-cost MRI review.*