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Arthritis and Your Spine: Explained

Arthritis can be a contributing factor to back pain. But did you know there are many different types of arthritis?

Osteoarthritis is the type of arthritis that happens over time due to wear and tear on joints. Rheumatoid arthritis is another form of arthritis, is manifested with inflammation in the joints. This usually strikes older adults, and can contribute to lower back pain.

Another type of arthritis that causes back pain is facet joint arthritis. But what are facet joints? Let’s take a step back. Your spine is made up of bones called vertebrae. They are stacked on top of one another, and have spongy discs to cushion them. On each side of the vertebrae are tiny joints called facet joints. Between the vertebrae of each segment of your spine are two facet joints. Cartilage covers the surfaces where these joints meet. Arthritis and inflammation can develop in these specific joints. The nerves to the facet joints can convey pain.

Facet Joint Arthritis

Arthritis that occurs in the lumbar facet joints, or the lower back, can cause significant pain. When the spine is healthy, the facet joints fit together and glide nicely. There is no pressure. But, if pressure builds up where the joint meets, the cartilage on the joint can be worn down. This usually happens due to aging and normal wear and tear. Arthritis in facet joints can also develop due to an earlier injury. If you’ve experienced fractures, disc injuries or torn ligaments, these can put stress on the facet joints.

One way our bodies respond to pressure on facet joints is by developing bone spurs. These small growths are also called osteophytes. They form in joints, but the good news is they may not produce any pain or symptoms. In some cases, bone spurs can go undetected for years. But in other cases, bone spurs cause pain. In your spine, bone spurs can narrow the spinal cord. They can pinch at nerve roots and cause weakness or numbness in arms or legs.

The symptoms of facet joint arthritis are usually localized. Pain can occur in the neck, mid-back or lower back. Pain in the lower back can radiate down into the buttocks and upper thigh area. Symptoms vary from person to person. If you are experiencing localized back pain, contact us or call our dedicated Medical Concierge at 800-890-1964 to set up an appointment or learn more.

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