What is it?
Arthritis occurs when joint cartilage degenerates as a result of wear and tear, aging, injury or misuse. Spinal arthritis can cause stiffness and pain in the neck, mid or lower back.
Symptoms of osteoarthritis in the spine also may include:
- Pain, tenderness or numbness in the neck
- Low back pain that extends into the buttocks, thighs or hips
- Pain or tenderness in the shoulders, hips, knees or heels
- A “crunching” sensation, or sound of bone against bone
- Weakness or numbness in the legs or arms
- Limited range of mobility, difficulty bending or walking
- Spinal deformity
Osteoarthritis (is the most common form of arthritis, and most frequently occurs in weight bearing joints. Spinal osteoarthritis affects the vertebral facet joints that enable the body to bend and twist. As the facet joints deteriorate, cartilage may become inflamed and eventually start to break away from the joint surfaces. Vertebrae begin to rub together, and the surrounding nerves and tissues can become inflamed, making movement painful. Osteoarthritis also may trigger the formation of osteophytes (bone spurs), that in the spine can cause the disc space to narrow and the affected disc to collapse. Cervical arthritis, also known as cervical spondylosis, affects the upper spine and neck.)
Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) ( is a type of arthritis that causes the sacroiliac joints and the joints of the lumbar spine to become inflamed. It also frequently affects the hips and other peripheral joints. AS usually develops between the teen years and age 40. Over time, chronic spinal inflammation can result in the bonding, or fusion, of vertebrae, a process referred to as ankylosis, which in turn can affect spinal mobility.)
When is spine surgery recommended for spinal arthritis?
If conservative treatment fails to provide lasting relief, or if osteoarthritis is contributing to spinal instability or affecting the spinal nerves, minimally invasive spine surgery may be indicated. Surgical therapies for treating osteoarthritis include:
- Laminectomy — (A procedure in which the lamina of the affected vertebrae is removed or trimmed to widen the spinal canal and create more space for the spinal nerves.)
- Spinal fusion — ( A surgical technique in which one or more of the vertebrae of the spine are joined together (fused) to stop them from moving against each other. This is done by placing bone grafts or bone graft substitutes between the affected vertebral bone. The graft material acts as a binding medium and also helps to maintain normal disc height – as the body heals, the vertebral bone and bone graft eventually grow together to join the vertebrae and stabilize the spine.)