Spondylosis, also known as arthritis of the spine, is said to be a “normal” part of getting older — a result of a lifetime’s worth of wear-and-tear on your spine, leading to degeneration and, often, pain. As a result, half of adults aged 65 years and older report having been diagnosed with arthritis, and an estimated one in five U.S. adults suffer from some form of the disease.[i]
When arthritis impacts your spine, it can be debilitating, even leading to muscle weakness and related psychological problems like anxiety and depression. Some suffer pain so excruciating they are unable to get out of bed or perform daily activities. That said, there are many options for treating arthritis of the spine — options that help address the underlying cause of the disease to encourage your body’s natural healing potential.
Are There Other Causes of Spinal Arthritis?
Osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis, is also known as degenerative joint disease because it occurs when the cartilage protecting your bones wears down, leading to inflammation and pain. Bone spurs may also develop, which causes your bones to rub painfully together.
As mentioned, these degenerative changes are most common as you get older, but there are other potential causes as well, including:
- Past injuries or surgeries
- Calcium build-up in your bones
- Hobbies or activities that stress joints repeatedly
- Genetic defects related to cartilage
Body-wide imbalances in your stress levels, hormone levels and nutrition may also trigger or exacerbate joint degeneration. Even muscle imbalances, such as weak core muscles, can negatively impact your posture, leading to neck and back pain, and furthering degeneration.
Classic Signs of Arthritis of the Spine
If you have arthritis of the spine, you may have back pain that comes and goes, along with stiffness and pain in your joints. Often, spinal stiffness and pain are worst in the morning, such as when you first get out of bed, and may improve somewhat after gentle exercises or stretches.
For some, however, spinal arthritis can lead to pain that radiates down into your buttocks, thighs or pelvic area, or spreads to your shoulders or neck. Others may have weakness or numbness in their neck, arms or legs, along with a limited range of motion that makes it difficult to bend over or walk.
Some people even hear a crunching sound when their bones rub together, and others experience frequent urination associated with arthritis of the spine. In severe cases, the debilitating pain can lead to social and emotional problems, particularly if it hinders your ability to work or engage in daily activities.
Because the pain of spinal arthritis often varies in frequency and intensity, even within one individual, and can mimic other types of back problems, your physician will most likely use your medical history along with exercises designed to test your range of motion to aid in diagnosis. Sometimes x-rays or MRIs are also used.
What Can You do to Relieve Arthritis of the Spine?
Conventional treatments for arthritis of the spine include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), as well as pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), codeine and morphine. Your doctor may also recommend you restrict movement of your neck and back with a cervical collar or other bracing, and in severe cases surgery is sometimes suggested.
The problem with these conventional treatment approaches is that they are geared toward eliminating symptoms, while the underlying degeneration continues to progress. Long-term use of NSAIDs and pain medications can also cause serious side effects, including gastrointestinal risks and heart and liver problems. To that end, if you are looking for symptom relief, there are natural, non-drug approaches that can help, including:
- Hot or cold compresses
- Electrical nerve stimulation
- Heal-n-Soothe, a natural anti-inflammatory cream that contains 12 of the most powerful and safest anti-pain ingredients
- Yoga and relaxation therapy
Ultimately, however, you will want to address the underlying causes of the spinal degeneration so your body has a chance to heal and recover, or at the very least slow the process of degeneration.
For instance, exercise can help improve osteoarthritis by strengthening your muscles and joints, and improving flexibility and range of motion. A physical therapist or qualified personal trainer can help you develop a safe exercise plan tailored to your fitness level.
In order to achieve long-term results, you should expect to combine a number of treatment approaches to determine which work best for you as an individual. With the free LosetheBackPain.com newsletter, you’ll have access to a treasure trove of back pain tips and treatment options that you may not have heard about before. Among them:
- Inversion Therapy / Spinal Decompression Therapy, to help with decompression and stress on the joints of your spine
- Muscle Balance Therapy, which can help generate balance and stability in your pelvis and spine, and minimize excessive wear and tear of the disc and other joints of your spine
- Trigger Point Therapy, to help restore proper muscle function and address localized pain
- Far Infrared Heat, which is deep penetrating and longer lasting for pain relief and to increase joint range of motion
Unlike most treatments, which only offer temporary symptom relief, these options target the underlying causes of your pain, often leading to complete pain relief even among chronic back pain sufferers.
To learn more, join the hundreds of thousands of other readers of the FREE LosetheBackPain.com newsletter by entering your primary email on this page — and start your journey to becoming pain free today.
Written By: Updated: January 3,2012