Spinal Arthritis and Its Causes
Degenerative spinal arthritis can have a variety of causes, including age, obesity, disease, overexertion, and genetic predisposition. In general, any conditions or activities that accelerate the deterioration of the cartilage that lines the facet joints could be considered catalysts of spinal arthritis. As the joint cartilage wears away, symptoms such as joint instability, tenderness, throbbing, joint lockage, weakness, or stiffness may occur. Bone spurs can also develop in places where cartilage has degenerated enough that vertebral bones are forced to rub against each other. This friction can give rise to bone spurs (osteophytes), which may cause compression of nearby spinal nerves. Arthritis-related nerve compression has been known to produce symptoms of numbness, tingling, radiating pain, and a pins-and-needles sensation.
Avoiding Spinal Arthritis Risk Factors
The aging process renders us more susceptible to spinal arthritis. The cartilage that lines the facet joints will naturally begin to deteriorate after years of wear and tear and, although there is no way to stop the aging process, there are a variety of ways that you can avoid certain risk factors. Try to:
- Maintain a healthy body weight. Obesity forces your joints to sustain more weight than they are designed to support
- Avoid high-impact activities. Exercise is certainly beneficial, but you should opt for activities that donâ€™t put too much strain on the joints, like swimming, elliptical training, or walking.
- Quit smoking. The chemicals in cigarette smoke can accelerate joint deterioration and inhibit the blood supply to the spine.
- Maintain proper posture at all times. Prolonged slouching can subject your spine to a great deal of tension.
What to Do If Spinal Arthritis Causes Debilitating Discomfort
For patients whose spinal arthritis causes enough discomfort that they can no longer perform their daily activities without pain, a consultation with a primary care physician may be in order. If it is confirmed that you are in fact suffering from spinal osteoarthritis, a conservative treatment regimen may be prescribed. This will generally involve prescription or over-the-counter medication, cold compresses, heat therapy, low-impact exercise, gentle stretching, behavior modification, and periods of rest.
If several months of conservative treatments prove ineffective, your doctor may suggest that you consider surgery. Keep in mind that this is a last-resort treatment option reserved for a small number of patients whose arthritis is severe and unresponsive to non-invasive treatment. Before you decide to undergo any surgical procedure, it would be in your best interest to get a second or third opinion about your condition, its prognosis, and the various procedures available to treat your condition.