Of the hundred or so types of arthritis, spinal arthritis is one of the most impactful ones since it can affect how the backbone and its supporting parts work. Also called osteoarthritis (OA), spinal arthritis affects the small joints of the spine by breaking down the cartilage that cushions these bony structures. Nothing can completely stop the age-related changes that contribute to spinal arthritis. However, there are diet and treatment tips that may make it easier to effectively manage the condition and prevent further damage to the spine and nearby soft tissues and nerves.
Make Healthy Dietary Choices
As is the case with any type of arthritis, OA primarily contributes to pain by increasing inflammation around joints and wearing down tissues. If you want to experience relief without becoming too reliant on medications, consider adjusting your diet. There is no standard “arthritis diet,” but some foods and spices naturally fight inflammation. Some of these foods include:
- Tomatoes and green, leafy veggies like spinach, cabbage, and lettuce
- Apples, pineapples, and bright-colored fruits
- Oily fish like salmon, mackerel, trout, and herring
- Whole grains like rye bread, oats, and brown rice
- Turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, sage, rosemary, and cloves
Manage Your Weight
Extra pounds add stress to joints and increase the wear and tear that can make arthritis-related pain more noticeable. Losing ten pounds of excess weight can significantly ease pressure on joints affected by OA. If you need to lose a larger amount of weight, your doctor may refer you to a dietician or nutritionist to put together a diet plan specific to your needs. Other positive lifestyle changes that may reduce joint stress include:
- Avoiding excessive neck strain when cradling a phone or using handheld devices
- Stretching or getting up to take periodic breaks if you spend most of your day sitting
- Warming up before exercising or playing sports
- Minimizing repetitive movements as much as possible
- Practicing proper lifting techniques (bending your hips and knees and keeping weight close to your body)
Find the Right Mix of Medication and Therapeutic Techniques
There may be times when discomfort from OA can’t be sufficiently managed by diet alone. This is when it’s time to work with your doctor and a physical therapist to find a combination of medications and therapeutic techniques to include as part of your pain management plan.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin and ibuprofen are often recommended to keep inflammation in check. Acetaminophen, duloxetine, and other analgesics work by blocking pain signals. Opiate pain-relievers should be used with caution and only on a short-term basis due to addiction concerns.
Corticosteroids injected directly into the affected part of your spine may provide enough relief to allow you to benefit from physical therapy (PT). Personalized PT exercises based on your abilities can play a role in enhancing and maintaining the flexibility, mobility, and range of motion sometimes affected by OA. You may also benefit from therapeutic PT that involves:
- Massage therapy
- Electrotherapy techniques such as TENS units and repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation
- Mindful meditation
Explore Gentle Aerobic Activities & Exercises
The purpose of gentle, low-impact aerobic activity is to strengthen the muscle groups that support the joints and bones of the spine in some way. Aerobic activities also increase circulation and stimulate the production of endorphins (“feel-good” hormones) that act similar to pain-relievers. There are many possibilities for strengthening exercises and aerobic activities, including:
- Using resistance bands
- Swimming and doing water-based exercises that take the stress off of bones and joints while still working core muscle groups
- Walking at a comfortable pace
- Doing yoga, Pilates, and other controlled-movement disciplines that gently work muscles, increase balance and coordination, and promote overall relaxation
If your osteoarthritis is characterized by occasional pain flare-ups, applying ice and heat to the affected area may ease your discomfort by decreasing inflammation and increasing circulation. Maintaining a positive attitude as much as possible can also be helpful since stress contributes to how pain is perceived. Should symptoms become increasingly disruptive to your daily life, talk to your doctor or a Los Angeles spine specialist about other treatment options.
Different conditions require unique treatments. At The Spine Institute, we offer a wide array of treatments, from spinal fusion to lumbar disc replacement. Los Angeles patients who are looking for effective relief should give us a call today at 310-828-7757.