Spinal arthritis can affect the entire spine, which includes the cervical or neck, the thoracic or the middle of the back, and the lumbar or lower part of the back. Since the spine supports the body in an upright position and protects the nerves of the spinal cord, when arthritis is in the spine, radiating pain and hunching over are common symptoms.
The most common form of arthritis of the spine is osteoarthritis or degenerative arthritis, whereby the cartilage breaks down, the spaces between vertebras narrow and sometimes form bone spurs. Eventually the bone surfaces rub together and the joints become inflamed and painful, and symptoms begin such as:
Osteoarthritis can cause spinal stenosis, which narrows the spinal canal causing loss of bowel and bladder control, nervous system damage and impaired mobility. In severe of spinal arthritis, doctors often suggest surgery.
Rheumatoid spinal arthritis can occur in any joint in the body but it most commonly affects the hands and the feet. When it is in the spine, it is more often in the neck rather than in the low or mid back. The symptoms are similar to ankylosing spondylitis and osteoarthritis of the spine including warmth and swelling in the joints.
Ankylosing spondylitis causes rigidity and inflammation of the spine and large joints. Bony bridges form between the vertebra and fuse them together and bones in the chest may fuse too. The sacroiliac joint, the joint between the hipbone and the spine, sometimes breaks down.
This form of spinal arthritis occurs most often in people from ages 15 to 45 but occasionally affects those below and above this age range. It affects males two to three times more often than women and researchers have linked a gene HLA-B27 to ankylosing spondylitis. The symptoms often come and go, vary from person to person but often include:
Facet arthritis affects the lower part of the back most often but facets are the linking joints all along spine and facet arthritis can affect the neck. The facets join the bones behind the spinal canal and when the facets cause pain in the neck and back, health care professionals call it facet joint syndrome. The main symptoms are radiating back pain into hips, buttocks, or neck pain into the shoulders.
Spinal arthritis has various causes and pain ranges from mild to severe. Treatment begins ordinarily with non-invasive treatments such as physical therapy, regular home exercises, oral mediations, ice and heat treatments. When these treatments are not effective, the next step is injections and finally when the patient is suffering from severe pain and symptoms, doctors offer surgery.
A variety of arthritis living aids are available to help you maintain your lifestyle and for any given challenge, you are likely to find a way to meet it. A heated mattress pad, a memory foam seat cushion or posture support are a few of the aids that allow you to rest or sit comfortable, and maintain a position that reduces the stress on your spine. A long handled bath brush or elastic shoelaces provide freedom from painful bending to perform personal tasks.
Spinal arthritis can lead to severe pain and restricted mobility that creates a challenge to maintain a good quality of life. It is important to consult a physician when you begin to have symptoms of arthritis to get an accurate diagnosis, as some of the symptoms are common to other disorders. The good news is that with early diagnosis, treatment protocols can delay the progression of the disease and allow you to enjoy life.
Assistive Aids Make Living with Arthritis Easier
Posture Support - refers to the many tools and aids that increase a person's comfort level, whether that person is sitting or lying down.
Elastic Shoe Laces - make it possible to quickly slip your shoes on and off, enabling you to avoid bending.
Toilet Aid - A toilet aid can be a lifesaver for the elderly or people with disabilities who have difficulties with basic hygiene.
Bathroom Grab Bars - help to prevent falls, slips, injuries and further damage to your already arthritic joints.
Adaptive Clothing - helps eliminate, or at least make easier, a task you face everyday…getting dressed.