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Dr. Perry What are the advantages of Laser Spine Institute?
Dr. Michael Perry, Chief Medical Director and Co-Founder of Laser Spine Institute, explains the breakthrough procedures and gives you the opportunity to find out whether you are a candidate for minimally invasive spine surgery.

Spinal Arthritis Overview

If you’re over age 55, chances are you cope with some form of arthritis, inflammation of the joints that causes pain, tenderness, stiffness and swelling. We often think of arthritis as something that strikes the knuckles, wrists, hips and knees. But what you may not know is osteoarthritis is just as likely to affect the joints of your spine as your limbs and hands. Here’s another surprising fact: There are approximately 100 different types of arthritis, and the most common type is osteoarthritis, a degenerative ailment that worsens over time and causes deterioration of the cartilage lining the joints. When osteoarthritis strikes the spine, the condition is known as spinal arthritis, one of the most common causes of neck and back pain among adults.

Spinal arthritis symptoms

It can be easy to ignore the milder symptoms of spinal arthritis, which can be as simple as a mild ache or warm sensation within your neck or lower back. Or you may wake up some mornings with a stiff neck. As you bend down to tie your shoes, you may notice a popping or grinding sound. After strenuous exercise, you may have unexplained difficulty bending at the waist. These symptoms of spinal arthritis may never get worse, or may progress to the more insidious problems caused by nerve compression. If nerve compression occurs in the neck (cervical spine), it can cause pain, tingling, numbness or muscle weakness in the shoulders, upper back, arms, hands or fingers. If the large sciatic nerve becomes compressed, symptoms may include:

  • A shooting pain that originates in the lower back, travels down the buttocks and extends into one leg or the other
  • A tingling sensation in one of your legs, feet or toes
  • An unexplained weakness in the legs
  • A dull ache in one of your hamstring muscles

Spinal arthritis causes

Exactly what causes spinal arthritis remains a medical mystery, but research has been able to identify groups of people who are more at risk for developing it. By far, the largest at-risk group is people who are middle-aged and older, leaving little doubt that the natural aging process is a major factor. Other potential risk factors for developing spinal arthritis include:

  • Genetics. If a close relative has arthritis, there’s a better chance you will develop it as well.
  • Spinal trauma. If you suffer from a neck or back injury, perhaps caused by a car accident or violent collision while playing sports, the injured joint is likely to degenerate prematurely.
  • Smoking. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarette, pipe or cigar smoke can reduce your body’s ability to circulate oxygen and other important nutrients for spine health.
  • Obesity. Carrying excess weight places additional stress on the spine’s joints, which accelerated cartilage degeneration.
  • Repetitive movement. If your job or pastime involves a lot of turning, bending, twisting or lifting, you may be adding excess strain to your vertebral joints. Similarly, people in professions requiring long periods of sitting, such as truck drivers, are at risk for accelerated joint deterioration, especially in the lower back.

Spinal arthritis treatment

While there is no cure for spinal arthritis, numerous treatments are available that effectively decrease symptoms, preserve mobility and range of motion, increase joint function and slow progression of the disease. As your first line of defense, your physician may recommend conservative remedies such as:

  • Exercise
  • Rest
  • Massage
  • Ice
  • Heat applications
  • Weight loss

Depending on the severity of your symptoms, your physician may prescribe either over-the-counter or prescription medications. More advanced cases of spinal arthritis may require:

  • Physical therapy
  • Chiropractic treatment
  • Spinal injections to alleviate pain and restore mobility

If these treatment options fail to provide relief after several weeks or months, your physician may recommend surgery. If you’re concerned about the risks and complications of open neck or back surgery, you may wish to explore the minimally invasive, outpatient procedures available at Laser Spine Institute that offer a lower risk of complication and quicker recovery times^ compared to traditional open spine surgery.

Additional Information on Common Spine Conditions