Spinal Osteoarthritis Treatment in Fort Worth, TX
When people think of arthritis, they often think of rheumatoid arthritis, the autoimmune disease where the body’s own immune system attacks the joints. But more common is osteoarthritis, which is caused by mechanical wear and tear on the joints. At the DFW Center for Spinal Disorders, Dr. Jason C. Tinley diagnoses and treats spinal osteoarthritis at our Fort Worth, TX office.
What Is Osteoarthritis Of The Spine?
Spinal arthritis involves inflammation of the spinal facet joints. The spinal facet joints in the lower back are prone to developing osteoarthritis. This often produces bone spurs that put pressure on the nerves exiting the spinal column. This leads to weakness and pain in the arms and legs.
What Are the Causes Of Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease, where the protective cartilage that cushions the tops of the bones wears down. In the spine, this usually involves the facet joints. It can occur in younger patients after a traumatic injury to a joint or due to a genetic defect involving the cartilage.
When the joint has osteoarthritis, this is the process that leads to pain:
- This damage results in friction between the vertebrae, leading to inflammation.
- The swollen facet joint now transmits a pain signal through the nerve in the joint.
- This nerve message causes the back muscles to spasm.
- Those spasms, along with the joint inflammation, lead to lower back pain.
What Are the Symptoms Of Spinal Arthritis?
Spinal arthritis has a full range of symptoms. There will usually be a combination of some of these symptoms:
- Back and/or neck stiffness and pain that is usually the worst when first waking up
- Pain that subsides during day, but tends to return in the evening
- Pain that disrupts sleep
- Weakness or numbness in the legs or arms if a nerve impinges
- Swelling and warmth in one or more joints, particularly during weather changes
Who is At-Risk for Osteoarthritis Of the Spine?
Anyone can get osteoarthritis of the spine. Generally, we see this condition more often in older people and those with a history of joint trauma.
What Are the Risk Factors Of Spinal Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition in which the cartilage around certain joints deteriorates over time. There are several reasons why cartilage may break down, but it isn’t fully known why it breaks down more in some people than in others. Advancing age is a risk factor, but not every elderly person has osteoarthritis, especially not in the spine. Knowing this, we have to look for additional risk factors. To date, research has found that people who have experienced an injury to the spine have a higher risk of developing osteoarthritis in some part of the spinal column. Cartilage may break down more quickly in people who experience a back or neck injury at a younger age. Degeneration of the cartilage around the facet joints of the spine may also occur at an accelerated rate if a person is overweight for a prolonged period of time, had a joint defect at birth, or works in an occupation involving repetitive motions that stress the spine.
Can I Work Out If I Have Spinal Osteoarthritis?
It is possible to work out with spinal osteoarthritis. However, it is important to first consult with a spinal specialist and also a physical therapist. When exercise is done correctly, it is not likely to exacerbate existing pain. In fact, studies show that physical exercise stimulates the release of “happy hormones” and endorphins in the brain, which can alleviate some of the anxiety and depression that may people with osteoarthritis experience. When working out with spinal osteoarthritis, the goals of exercise are different than for people with complete structural mobility. With this condition, exercise should focus on strengthening the muscles around the affected joint or joints, as well as on improving flexibility and mobility.
What Self-Care Can I Do to Treat Spinal Osteoarthritis?
Spinal osteoarthritis can affect every facet of life. That said, healthy lifestyle choices can ease the strain of living with this condition. People experiencing the chronic pain of spinal osteoarthritis should know that their condition need not limit them to a life of relative isolation. There are several ways to maximize one’s quality of life. Suggestions include:
- Eat a healthy, whole-food diet that is abundant in antioxidants to help reduce inflammation. A healthy diet not only helps manage weight but also feeds the brain the nutrients that support optimal mood regulation.
- Exercise at least 30 minutes a day, at least three days a week.
- Find exercise programs and other activities that involve others. Doing so can meet two needs at once, the need for physical movement and the need to be around others. It can be especially beneficial to exercise with others who are also living with chronic back or neck pain.
- Engage in activities that relax the body and mind. This may include listening to guided meditations, reading a good book, or chatting with a loved one. If it brings joy, do it.
- Ensure that work equipment is situated in an ergonomic manner that supports the neck and back.
How Painful Is Spinal Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis of the spine can become quite uncomfortable. The condition may lead to narrowing in the spinal canal, resulting in nerve compression that causes various symptoms. Treatment for osteoarthritis is intended to minimize pain and improve range of motion. This can often be achieved without surgery. The earlier that osteoarthritis is accurately diagnosed and treated, the faster the patient may gain relief from uncomfortable aches and pains related to their condition.
How is Osteoarthritis Of The Spine Diagnosed?
At the DFW Center for Spinal Disorders, we diagnose spinal arthritis with imaging x-rays, computerized tomography (CT scans), or magnetic resonance imaging(MRI). X-rays can show bone damage, bone spurs, and loss of cartilage or discs. CT scans can include myelography, where a contrast dye is injected into the spinal column to show issues such as a bulging disc or bone spur possibly pressing on a nerve. MRIs can show disc damage and areas where discs have become narrow at the locations where spinal nerves exit.
What Should You Avoid With Osteoarthritis?
People who have osteoarthritis in one or more spinal segments may be advised to attend physical therapy to strengthen muscles and improve flexibility. Additionally, a doctor may recommend certain activity restrictions. These may include:
- Lifting or carrying heavy objects that place strain on the back and neck.
- If osteoarthritis affects the lumbar spine, the patient may be encouraged to avoid deep bends or twists at the waist.
- If osteoarthritis affects the cervical spine, the patient should avoid postures that place pressure on the head and neck, such as headstands.
- Patients should limit the amount of time they spend sitting at a desk if they notice that doing so causes pain and stiffness.
How Can I Prepare For Spinal Arthritis Treatment?
Many cases of spinal arthritis can be treated without surgery. Patients may manage their spinal health with lifestyle habits that promote weight loss or stability at a healthy weight, light physical activity, medication, rest, and physical therapy. There is no preparation needed to engage in these remedies for spinal arthritis. In the case of surgical treatment, patients receive detailed instructions regarding pre-operative habits and preparations like taking time off work, avoiding smoking, and obtaining necessary supplies.
Spinal Arthritis Treatment
The goal of our treatment for spinal arthritis is for the patient to return to a healthy lifestyle. Often the disease can greatly impact the patient’s activity and his or her mental state along with it. We begin with conservative treatments such as better postural support and training. Overweight people are more prone to spinal osteoarthritis, weight loss plan is often a treatment goal. Exercise helps in a variety of ways. We break it down into strengthening exercises to make the muscles that support the joints stronger, aerobic exercises to strengthen the heart and circulatory systems, and range-of-motion exercises to increase flexibility. Exercise:
- Increases flexibility
- Improves mood and outlook
- Strengthens the heart
- Improves blood flow
- Allows the patient to perform everyday tasks
Some of the exercises included in our treatment include swimming, walking, and water aerobics. Pain medications come into play, as well. Over-the-counter pain medications and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are used. But these only address the pain and do nothing to solve the condition. We also utilize physical therapy, massage, and chiropractic treatment when appropriate.
Read what our patients are saying!
“Dr. Tinley and Co. are amazing. Easy to talk to about symptoms. Me, personally, have been to him twice. (10 yrs apart) Always explains what is going on and how it will be corrected. Definitely recommend.”
How is Spinal Arthritis Surgically Treated?
Spinal osteoarthritis is one of the causes of spinal stenosis or a narrowing of the spinal canal that puts pressure on the surrounding nerves. If this compression increases to the point of impacting bladder or bowel function or damaging the nerves, surgery may be necessary. In those cases, we have a variety of surgical methods to decrease the pressure on the spinal cord.
What is Spinal Arthritis Recovery Like?
Many of the most common treatments for spinal osteoarthritis carry no downtime and no major side effects from which a patient has to recover. Surgical interventions for conditions related to osteoarthritis of the spine can vary and are designed around each patient’s unique situation. The vast majority of spinal procedures performed today are done using minimally-invasive surgical techniques. These minimize downtime and expedite optimal healing to a few days to a few weeks. When surgery is needed for spinal osteoarthritis, the specialist will discuss all aspects of the process, including what to expect in terms of recovery, side effects, and resuming normal activities.
What Happens If Spinal Arthritis Goes Untreated?
Osteoarthritis of the spine, as with other forms of osteoarthritis, can progress if not properly managed. In the case of spinal arthritis, a lack of treatment could result in:
- Spinal stenosis, in which the spinal canal narrows.
- Radiculopathy, in which nerve compression causes severe nerve pain in the neck or back, arms, legs, or other areas.
Depending on the treatment that a patient receives for their osteoarthritis, pain and inflammation may recur. This can happen from time to time and is usually the result of overdoing physical activity. If you have spinal osteoarthritis, it is important to balance regular physical activity with rest and mindful movements that prevent too much stress on the spine.
Schedule Your Spinal Arthritis Treatment in Fort Worth
If you are experiencing symptoms of spinal arthritis or spinal osteoarthritis, contact DFW Center for Spinal Disorders to discuss the cause of your joint pain and the treatment options available. To schedule your spinal osteoarthritis consultation, please call or request an appointment through our secure online form. Our spine center in Fort Worth is conveniently located for patients in Dallas, Arlington, Mansfield, Burleson, and the surrounding areas.