Arthritis Symptoms, Risk Factors, Treatment, and Procedures

Definition

Spinal arthritis, or arthritis of the spine, is a medical condition characterized by inflammation in the joints of the spine. This inflammation leads to changes in the joints that cause stiffness and pain. It is a progressive disease, which means it worsens over time. There are many different forms of spinal arthritis, but the most common types of arthritis of the spine are rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Spondylosis is another name for osteoarthritis of the spine. 

When osteoarthritis of the spine is present, it causes degeneration, or a breakdown, in the tissues that cover the ends of the spinal bones in their joints. When rheumatoid arthritis affects the spine, the lining of the joints is affected first. Rheumatoid arthritis is more likely to affect hands, wrists, toes, and ankles, than the spine. Rheumatoid arthritis of the spine can eventually affect the vertebrae, or osteoarthritis of the spine can be present when rheumatoid arthritis is found in other areas of the body.

Typically, symptoms of osteoarthritis include pain and stiffness. When arthritis occurs in the vertebra or back, symptoms can also include the following:

  • Pain in the back that is intermittent (it comes and goes)
  • Stiffness in the joints of the spine, making it difficult to bend down or straighten the back
  • A “crunching” sound or feeling, especially in the neck area
  • If nerves are compressed or irritated, arthritis back symptoms can include numbness and tingling that radiates into the buttocks, legs, or arms
  • Tenderness when one of the bones of the spine is touched
  • Unusual curves in the spine. Know more about arthritis symptoms...

Arthritis of the spine can occasionally be the result of other conditions such as systemic lupus erythematosus or psoriasis. Sometimes spinal arthritis develops due to infection. The treatment your doctor recommends for spinal arthritis will depend on what type of arthritis is diagnosed. Treatment also depends on the severity of the symptoms.

Treatment of spinal arthritis usually focuses on pain control and reducing the inflammation caused by the disease. When these goals are met, the patient's quality and enjoyment of life are greatly improved. 

The focus of arthritis treatment is on managing the symptoms of pain and stiffness and improving joint function. In many cases, different types of treatments for arthritis or a combination of arthritis treatments need to be tried before patients discover the approach that is best suited for them.  Know more about arthritis treatment...

Diagnostic procedures

If your doctor suspects a diagnosis of arthritis is responsible for your symptoms of back pain and stiffness, you will be asked questions about your medical history and be given a physical examination. Your joints will be checked for some common signs that indicate an arthritis diagnosis, including inflammation, warmth, swelling, and stiffness. If a particular arthritis diagnosis is suspected, or in order to rule out other conditions that cause similar symptoms, doctors sometimes recommend diagnostic tests or studies. Know more about arthritis diagnostics...

Spinal osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are two very common types of arthritis. Both of these conditions cause damage to the joints, but the damage occurs in different ways.  Know more about arthritis causes....

Risk Factors

Some arthritis risk factors are beyond our ability to control, while others can be successfully managed. The risk factors for arthritis that we cannot control include the following: 

  • Family history: Some types of arthritis tend to run in families. If a parent or sibling has one of these forms of the disease, your risk for arthritis may be higher. Some individuals carry certain genes that make them more susceptible to environmental factors that trigger certain forms of arthritis.    
  • Age: This arthritis risk factor is impossible to control. The risk for many types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and gout, increases as people age.  
  • Gender: Women are at higher risk than men are to develop rheumatoid arthritis. Men are at higher risk for gout than women are.  
  • Prior injuries: People who have had previous joint injuries are at increased risk for arthritis in the joint that has been injured. This is many times an unavoidable risk factor for arthritis. Know more about arthritis risk factors...
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