What Is Arthritis in the Spine?


Quick Answer

Arthritis in the spine, generally the osteoarthritis form, breaks down the cartilage in the joints and discs in the lower back and neck. Older people get arthritis more often than younger people, and they may experience pain and stiffness in the neck or back, WebMD says.

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Full Answer

Most cases of arthritis in the spine are degenerative; however, a few cases of spinal arthritis involve rheumatoid arthritis. This form of arthritis affects younger people than those who get osteoarthritis, and the soft tissue of the joints can swell and affect organs. Rheumatoid arthritis may cause severe damage to the spine’s joints. This cause of spinal arthritis is rare, says the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.

Leading a healthy lifestyle can curtail the symptoms of osteoarthritis of the spine. For overweight individuals, losing weight can help to relieve pressure. Regular exercise also helps increase flexibility, WebMD notes. Some exercise routines recommended for osteoarthritis patients include swimming, water aerobics and walking. Doing weight exercises helps to strengthen the body, including the muscles in the back and neck.

Other treatments for osteoarthritis include pain medications. Sometimes doctors choose to perform surgery on the spine to relieve spinal stenosis symptoms. Spinal arthritis can cause stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spinal canal, says WebMD.

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