Back arthritis

by Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR

Nathan Wei is a nationally known board-certified rheumatologist and author of the Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit. It's available exclusively at this website... not available in stores.

Click here: Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit

One of the more common areas affected by arthritis is the back.

The back (spine) consists of individual bones called vertebrae, which are stacked upon each other. They are separated from each other in the front by rubbery discs and in the back by a pair of facet joints. Multiple ligaments and muscles attached to the spine provide stability and flexibility.

Arthritis occurs when the cartilage in the facet joints is worn down as a result of wear and tear, aging, or injury. The arthritis may irritate nerve roots as they exit from the spine. In addition, the intervertebral discs dry out and flatten out causing further possible nerve root issues.

In the spine, osteoarthritis can cause stiffness and pain in the neck or in the lower back. Cervical arthritis (also called cervical spondylosis) affects the upper spine and neck. Lumbar arthritis affects the lower back and pelvis.

The following are factors that contribute to risk of developing arthritis:

Age: arthritis is more common in people over the age of 50
Overuse from work or sports related activities
Injury or trauma
Family history
Gender- women are twice as likely to get arthritis

Signs and symptoms of arthritis include inflammation, stiffness and pain in the joints. In the spine, symptoms may also include:

• Intermittent back pain
• Stiffness in the morning
• Pain in the neck that radiates to the shoulder or down the arm
• Low back pain that runs down into the buttocks, thighs, or leg
• Weakness or numbness in legs or arms
• Limited range of motion, difficulty bending or walking
While degenerative arthritis is the most common form of arthritis to affect the back, other inflammatory forms of arthritis can also affect the spine. Examples include ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and Reiter's disease.

The symptoms of arthritis, especially in the spine, may suggest other medical problems. Therefore, it is important to rule out other, possibly more serious problems. Examples of some other medical conditions that can cause back pain are aortic aneurysm, stomach ulcers, and malignancies. A variety of tests may be needed:

• Blood tests help narrow the diagnosis of the type of arthritis.
• X-rays can show structural changes in the vertebrae and can help determine if there has been any deterioration of cartilage.
• MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) gives a three-dimensional view of the back and also provides a look at soft tissue structures such as the spinal cord, nerve roots and surrounding spaces.
• Computerized axial tomography (CAT scan) - this test shows the shape and size of the spinal canal, its contents and structures surrounding it. It is better at looking at bone than soft tissue.
• Myelogram - dye is injected into the spinal column and outlines bone on x-ray. A myelogram can show abnormalities of the spinal cord or nerves. This test is rarely used anymore.

While there is no cure for arthritis,the pain can be treated effectively with a variety of measures including medications, injections, physical therapy, exercise, heat/cold therapy and rest.

Get more information about back arthritis and related conditions as well as...

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• And much more...

Click here Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit

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