Arthritis in the Spine - A Full Spectrum of Care

University Hospitals’ nationally recognized spine specialists are dedicated to treating arthritic spine symptoms with a wide range of sophisticated treatments that can reduce inflammation and provide arthritis pain relief.

Due to the expertise and experience of our team, our UH spine program is one of only 20 programs in the U.S. to be designated a Center of Excellence by the National Spine Institute. Our multidisciplinary team takes a comprehensive, yet individualized approach to treating your arthritic spine and the underlying causes. Together, we are focused on your improved spine health and provide you with a higher quality of life.

Understanding Types and Risk Factors of Arthritis in the Spine

Arthritis of the spine leads to severe pain and inflammation and can make it difficult for you to stand, sit or walk. Spinal joints withstand a significant amount of pressure, making them particularly prone to developing arthritis. If you are diagnosed with arthritis of the spine, this means your facet joints, which facilitate movement in the spine and allow you to bend, twist and stretch have experienced cartilage breakdown.

There are two common types of arthritis in the spine:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis: An autoimmune disorder where the body attacks and destroys joint cartilage.
  • Osteoarthritis: Occurs when joints have experienced wear and tear and the cartilage has weakened and deteriorate. Since osteoarthritis is the wearing down of your joints over time, these arthritic spine symptoms often develop slowly and worsen as time goes on. This type of arthritis in the spine can appear as stiffness, pain, tenderness, loss of flexibility and more.

Several factors can increase your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis. These include being overweight, menopause, diabetes, genetics, previous injuries, and repetitive movements from certain occupations or activities that involve repetitive stress on the spine.

A Multidisciplinary Approach to Caring for an Arthritic Spine

Our expert spine team is comprised of a variety of highly trained clinical specialists who work closely together to design individualized spinal arthritis treatment plans for your specific needs and goals. Your spine team members may include:

  • Orthopedic surgeons
  • Rheumatologists
  • Physiatrists
  • Primary care doctor
  • Psychologists or psychiatrists
  • Rehabilitation nurses
  • Recreational therapists
  • Dietitians
  • Vocational therapists
  • Social workers

Arthritis of the Spine Treatment – Advanced Short- and Long-Term Options

Although there is no cure for arthritis of the spine, treatments can improve joint function and keep joint pain and inflammation to a minimum. Your symptoms, age and general health will help determine your treatment. Your spine specialist may recommend a combination of the following arthritic spine treatments:

  • Medications: Over-the-counter pain medications may be a viable option if your arthritis is mild to moderate. Prescription pain medications may be prescribed for the short-term if your arthritis pain is severe.
  • Hot and cold compresses: Applying hot or cold compresses to your back may improve your arthritis back pain and inflammation.
  • Physical therapy: Low-impact physical therapy exercises can relieve stiffness and improve your range of motion.
  • Steroid injections: An injection of corticosteroid medication into your facet joint may temporarily relieve moderate to severe pain.

If conservative treatments do not provide you with relief from your arthritic spine, a surgical procedure may be recommended. We may suggest arthroscopy, a minimally invasive spine surgery using a tool called an arthroscope. Containing a camera lens and light, an arthroscope makes it easier for our spine surgeons to see inside your joint and make the most efficient surgical repair.

A minimally invasive spinal fusion, which involves joining two or more vertebrae into one single structure, can also be beneficial. It can correct the spinal weakness or instability that severe arthritis in the spine may cause.

A joint replacement may be an option as well. If a joint replacement surgery is right for you, you will benefit from the expertise of our highly-trained orthopedic surgeons who perform over 1,100 joint replacements each year. With skill and experience, our spine surgeons have strong outcomes with low readmission rates, low complications and high patient satisfaction.

For More Information About UH Expertise for Arthritis of the Spine Treatment

If you are living with arthritis in the spine and would like more information about finding relief through expert care at University Hospitals, contact the spine specialists at any of our convenient locations. Call us today at 216-286-8888.