Redwood Orthopaedic Surgery Associates | Santa Rosa, CA

What you need to know about osteoarthritis in the back

An elderly woman suffering from lower back pain at home. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, also known as the “wear and tear” arthritis. In the spine, it is characterized by the degeneration of the discs and facet joints and can lead to stiffness and pain, getting worse over time. Here are some frequently asked questions about osteoarthritis and how you should treat it.

What are the symptoms of osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis symptoms include pain, stiffness, swelling, tenderness and loss of flexibility. You may experience bone spurs, which is caused by the friction created by the spine rubbing together.

What causes osteoarthritis in the back?

Internal damage to the facet joints of the spine lead to osteoarthritis. If the cartilage on one side of the facet joint gets damaged, it causes friction and injury to both sides. The joint damage and friction lead to inflammation. The swollen facet joints send the pain signal through a single nerve called the medial branch, which travels to through the facet joint. This signal causes the back muscles to spasm, and the combination of spasm and inflammation of the joints leads to lower back pain.

What are the risk factors?

The risk of developing osteoarthritis increases with age, and women are more likely than men to develop osteoarthritis, especially over the age of 50. Extra weight can also put extra stress on the joints, and obesity may have metabolic effects that increase the risk of osteoarthritis. If you have family members with osteoarthritis, you are more likely to develop this form of arthritis yourself.

How can it be treated?

Osteoarthritis can be treated with anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy, injections or a combination of any of these treatment options to help patients find relief.

While osteoarthritis occurs more frequently in older adults, it can develop in younger people from stress, overuse or after an injury. For diagnosis and treatment of osteoarthritis in the spine, call us at 707.544.3400 to make an appointment.

Posted in: Osteoarthritis

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