Exceptional Care for Patients with Arthritis in Spine
The joints of the spine (backbone) make it possible for us to stand, walk, bend, twist and stretch. A flexible substance called cartilage acts as a cushion between each of the small bones (vertebra) that make up the spine and facilitates smooth, pain-free movement. If this cartilage breaks down due to age, overuse or disease, it can lead to spinal arthritis with symptoms of inflammation, stiffness, severe pain and restricted mobility.
Your health is important. Get expert care.
If the pain and symptoms of spine arthritis are limiting your ability to enjoy life, we can help. Call 216-286-8888 today to schedule an appointment with a UH spine specialist.
Advanced Diagnosis and Treatments for Spinal Arthritis
In addition to a physical exam and medical history, your spine specialist can often confirm a diagnosis of spine arthritis through a simple X-ray exam. To obtain more detailed information, the following tests may also be ordered:
- Blood tests to look for genetic markers and/or rheumatoid arthritis antibodies
- Additional imaging exams (MRI, CT, Bone scan) to pinpoint the exact location and extent of the damage or to rule out other possible causes
If a diagnosis of spine arthritis is confirmed, your UH spine specialist will develop a personalized treatment plan based on your age, general overall health and the severity of your symptoms. Although there is no cure, treatments can improve joint function, keep joint pain and inflammation to a minimum and prevent further damage. Your treatment plan may include:
- Nonsurgical Treatments and Procedures
In many cases, the symptoms of spine arthritis can be managed with a combination of conservative, noninvasive treatments. These may include:
- Medications: For mild to moderate spine arthritis, over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) may be recommended to reduce pain and inflammation. If your arthritis pain is severe, prescription medications may be prescribed.
- 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, strengthen back muscles and improve your range of motion.
- Corticosteroids: Steroid pills or injections may be used to reduce swelling and temporarily relieve moderate to severe pain.
- Lifestyle changes: You may be advised to lose weight, quit smoking, limit alcohol intake and improve your posture. These simple changes can help to reduce inflammation and stress on your spine.
If conservative treatments do not provide you with relief, a surgical procedure may be recommended. Due to advancements in spine surgery techniques, many of these procedures may now be done using a minimally invasive approach called arthroscopy. In some patients, however, an open surgery may be necessary for an optimal outcome. Your spine surgeon will review your options with you before scheduling the surgery. Surgical procedures may include:
- Spinal Cord Decompression Surgery. Severe arthritis of the spine can sometimes lead to compression of the spinal cord and nerves, causing pain, numbness and limited range of motion. Decompression surgery – also called a laminectomy – removes a portion of the vertebra (lamina) to relieve pressure on the spinal cord and free up the nerve roots. Sometimes, multiple vertebrae may require decompression.
- Spinal Fusion Surgery. Often done using a minimally invasive approach, this procedure fuses or joins two or more spinal vertebra together. This is done to correct the spinal weakness or instability that may be caused by severe spine arthritis.
Types of Spinal Arthritis
Arthritis can develop in any joint of the body, including the spinal vertebrae. The most common types of arthritis are:
- Rheumatoid arthritis: An autoimmune disorder where the body attacks and destroys joint cartilage.
- Osteoarthritis: A wear-and-tear disorder in which the cartilage weakens and breaks down over time. Also called degenerative joint disease, it is the most common type of arthritis.
- Ankylosing spondylitis: Spondyloarthritis is a group of inflammatory diseases that affect the joints and the areas where ligaments and tendons attach to the bones. When it occurs in the spine, it is called ankylosing spondylitis (AS). In severe cases, it can lead to several vertebra fusing together.
Several factors can increase your risk of developing arthritis of the spine. These include excess weight, menopause, diabetes, genetics, previous injuries and repetitive movements from certain occupations or activities that put excess stress on the spine.
Exceptional, Multidisciplinary Care for Spinal Arthritis
The UH team of spine specialists have the expertise and experience to provide patients with the highest level of care for spinal arthritis. In fact, our spine program is one of only 20 programs in the country to be designated a Center of Excellence by the National Spine Institute.
We draw upon the expertise of a wide variety of clinical specialists to devise personalized treatment plans for each patient who comes to us for care. Your team may include:
- Orthopedic surgeons
- Primary care doctor
- Psychologists or psychiatrists
- Rehabilitation nurses
- Recreational therapists
- Vocational therapists
- Social workers