Back Arthritis - Symptoms, Pain Treatment and Living Aids


Back arthritis, a common disease of the spine, causes pain and discomfort in the back, with back pain being the number one form of chronic pain among Americans. If arthritis is causing your symptoms, it is important to find out early as early treatment can help prevent permanent damage.

Although arthritis is most common among older patients, it can be found among those of all ages. Different factors such as, excessive weight, previous injury, or genetics can put you at higher risk.

The spine is made up of a stack of 24 vertebrae. Spinal discs that act like cushions separate these vertebrae on the front side of the spinal chord. On the opposite side, small joints, called facet joints, connect the vertebrae. These vertebrae, spinal discs, and facet joints work together allowing movement and flexibility of the spine, which is reduced by back arthritis.

Osteoarthritis, occurs when cartilage between the facet joints start to wear down, causing inflammation in the joints. As the inflammation worsens and the spine continues to age, the joints become unstable. To combat this instability, growths called osteophytes or bone spurs, start to develop at the joints.

Bone spurs are considered a normal part of aging, but may become so large as to increase the irritation of back arthritis. Though it is aging that typically causes this form of arthritis, it can also be caused by a significant injury to the back.

Rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease, is another, less common, form of arthritis that affects the back. The body’s own immune system begins to attack the joints of the spine, leading to inflammation and instability in the joints.


The most common symptoms include:

  • Back pain that comes and goes
  • Headaches
  • Pain or numbness in the neck
  • A crunching feeling when the spine is moved
  • Stiffness in the morning or after physical activity;
  • Difficulty bending, or walking
  • Weakness or numbness in the arms or legs

Testing for Arthritis

When left undiagnosed or not properly treated, arthritis can create irreparable damage to the joints, bones, and organs. A doctor will use certain tests to diagnosis arthritis, such as:

  • Blood tests to exclude other diseases.
  • X-rays to find bone damage, bone spurs, and loss of cartilage. 
  • MRI to show narrowing of areas where spinal nerves exit.

Treatments for Arthritis of the Back

After your doctor has confirmed a diagnosis of back arthritis, there are many treatments to consider. Treatments can help to reduce or even eliminate pain, as well as maintain the ability to function in every day life. You do not have to give up to the disease, as there are many options to reduce symptoms. Some treatments include:

Weight Loss – Excess weight can often increase the pain of arthritis. Losing even just 10 pounds can help to relieve pain, because it relieves stress on the facet joints.

Physical Therapy – Strengthening the muscles of the spine through physical therapy, will help decrease the burden on the facet joints.

Medications – Anti-inflammatory medications taken under the care of your doctor can reduce inflammation around the joints, helping to relieve pain.

Ice & Heat Applications – Heat can be very helpful for relaxing the tension cause from inflammation. There are many products such as heated mattresses that can relieve pain. Cold applications are helpful for relieving pain after physical activity.

Alternative Treatments – Many patients find significant relief from massage, magnetic therapy, acupuncture, natural remedies and other alternative treatments.

Spinal Fusion Surgery – This surgical procedure is used to eliminate movement between adjoining vertebrae. If all other treatments fail to provide relief, surgery may be an option for the treatment of severe arthritis.

Remember that you are not alone and there are options to help you. Even if symptoms cannot be completely eliminated, there are many products designed for back arthritis patients to live more comfortably.

Lumbar support pillows and cushions can take stress off the joints. Heated or magnetic mattresses help to reduce pain. These types of adaptive equipment and living aids can simplify daily tasks to reduce symptoms and make patients more comfortable, to make living with arthritis as easy as possible.

Assistive Aids to Keep You Upright and Mobile

Wheelchair Lift for Cars - a must have accessory if you or a passenger you transport has difficulty walking or is unable to ambulate.

Posture Support - works by immobilizing the back so there is less movement of the spine and back muscles.

Toilet Aid - Many users find that including these adaptive aids in their bathrooms help them to remain independent for longer.

Elastic Shoe Laces - helps arthritis sufferers put on their shoes without putting too much strain on weakened joints.

Stair Lifts for Disabled - when properly installed for your own special needs, they offer a safe way to access all levels of your home.

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