Arthritis of the spine falls into two basic categories:
Osteoarthritis of the back or neck is significantly more common than is inflammatory arthritis. Below is a narrated video animation about osteoarthritis of the spine.
The most common symptom of spinal osteoarthritis is pain in the lumbar spine (low back – see further below for an explanation of spine anatomy). This pain may also radiate down to the pelvis, buttocks, groin or thighs. It is usually treated through a combination of:
When these treatments are not enough to alleviate pain and stiffness, a patient may require procedural pain management, such as corticosteroid injections or blocking of the medial nerve through radiofrequency neurotomy, where heat generated by radio waves disrupts the nerve’s ability to transmit pain signals.
Osteoarthritis of the neck, called cervical spondylosis, is also common. This is characterized by arthritic deterioration of the discs and facet joint cartilage of the cervical spine. Spondylosis is nearly universal in elderly patients, but can also affect younger people. Some people experience no symptoms, while others may feel stiffness and/or pain in the neck, shoulders and/or between the shoulder blades. See also Cervical Radiculopathy.
The bones that compose the spine (or backbone) are divided into four basic segments. From top to bottom, these are: