Spinal osteoarthritis is a condition that often occurs as a normal part of the aging process and can result in pain and decreased mobility. As a person ages, the structures that make up the spinal column begin to deteriorate and slowly lose their ability to flex easily without causing friction among the joints and other bony parts of the spine.
How It Develops
The facet joints along the spine are normally protected by a natural lubricant known as synovial fluid that keeps the structures from grinding against each other during movement. As the joint wears down and the cartilage becomes rough, the space between the structures becomes smaller allowing grating to occur. The friction results in inflammation in the spinal column and a subsequent decrease in the synovial fluid. In time, symptoms including pain and impaired flexibility of the spine develop.
The body often responds to the degeneration of the facet joints by developing bony spurs, or osteophytes. The growth of the spurs along the spine is nature’s attempt at reinforcing the weakened column. The osteophytes may cause other painful problems such as spinal stenosis, or narrowing of the spinal canal, and nerve compression.
Who Is at Risk
Aging is the primary factor in the onset of spinal osteoarthritis, and it is accompanied by other elements that influence its development. Beverly Hills spine surgeons note that post-menopausal women have an increased incidence of acquiring the condition, and people who are overweight or who have debilitating diseases, such as diabetes, tend to develop spinal osteoarthritis more readily.
It is important for people with spinal osteoarthritis to take an active role in their health in order to more effectively manage their condition. Regular activity tends to slow its progression along with maintaining good nutrition and a healthy body weight.
Painful flare-ups may be treated with physician-approved, over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen, naprosyn, acetaminophen or aspirin. People who are struggling with pain that is difficult to manage may find relief by receiving steroid injections that are administered directly in the spine. The medication is delivered onto the inflamed nerve roots and is highly effective for decreasing swelling and alleviating discomfort.
If you’ve been diagnosed with spinal osteoarthritis and are interested in learning more about your treatment options, look to the trusted spine surgeons at The Spine Institute Center in Los Angeles. In addition to discussing non-surgical spine treatments, we can also provide information on decompression spine surgery should conservative measures fail to provide relief. Request an in-person consultation by calling (310) 828-7757.