Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition, meaning that it gets slowly worsens over time, that affects the joints. As we get older the cartilage that protects our bones wears down causing pain and stiffness.
Spinal osteoarthritis is when the cartilage within the spine, protecting the spinal disc, breaks down. This will generally occur in older adults; however, it can affect younger adults if they have a genetic defect that affects cartilage, or if they have previously injured the joint. In younger people this is more common in men, however in older adults it is more common in women.
Spinal osteoarthritis can cause a number of different symptoms. This can include:
Neck or back pain
Weakness or numbness in the legs or arms
Difficulty with doing ‘normal’ daily activities
The severity of symptoms is different for every patient; some people will have no interference, whereas others may find the symptoms disabling.
The best way to diagnose spinal osteoarthritis is with an x-ray; to visually see the wear and tear of the cartilage. Patients may also ask you to have a blood test, which can help to rule out any other disease or an MRI to show any abnormality.
When treating spinal osteoarthritis, the aim is to relieve the symptoms rather than curing the disease. This means that patients will be able to have a better quality of life.
One of the best ways to help symptoms is to do regular exercise. This helps to maintain a healthy weight, therefore removing some of the pressure from the spine and also strengthen the supporting muscles. If the pain is affecting your ability to take part in exercises it might be best to start with a low impact exercise like swimming or cycling.
Other options include:
Massages or acupuncture
Cold or hot packs
Supplements that support healthy bones
This article is intended to inform and give insight but not treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a doctor. Always seek medical advice with any questions regarding a medical condition.