Arthritis in the Spine

What is arthritis in the spine, and how is it treated?

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a prevalent cause of chronic pain — some 32.5 million Americans live with stiff, swollen, and painful joints because of this degenerative disease. 

Many patients associate osteoarthritis with their knees, hips, or hands, but the disease can develop in any joint in your body, including the joints between your vertebrae in your spine.

If you live with chronic back pain and stiffness and have concerns about arthritis, make an appointment with the Spine Specialists at OrthoNeuro in Columbus, Ohio. 

Our spine physicians provide comprehensive exams and testing to identify the cause of your pain.

They also provide personalized treatment plans to relieve your arthritis symptoms, restore your mobility, and help you get back to your regular activities.

What Is Osteoarthritis of the Spine?

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. 

It’s a degenerative condition that develops as the cartilage that lines, lubricates, and protects your joints wears away.

Without cartilage, the bones in your joints grind together, leading to irritation, inflammation, pain, swelling, and stiffness.

Osteoarthritis of the spine develops in the facet joints that connect your vertebrae. 

It’s worth mentioning that osteoarthritis and degenerative discs often occur hand in hand.

This happens because the disc and facet joints (the joints in the back affected by osteoarthritis) are both parts of the same three-joint complex.

Your risk for osteoarthritis increases as you age and if you’re overweight. These joints can also deteriorate following an injury or as the result of torn spinal discs. 

When a damaged spinal disc doesn’t sufficiently support your vertebrae, additional and often excessive force is transmitted to your facet joints, accelerating their degeneration.

What Are Symptoms of Osteoarthritis in the Spine?

The primary signs of spinal osteoarthritis include lumbar spine and neck stiffness and pain

Your symptoms are usually worse in the morning, subsiding during the day, only to worsen at night and potentially disrupt your sleep. The discomfort may radiate into your buttocks, hips, and thighs.

You may also experience:

  • Tenderness when the affected joint is pressed
  • Pain that worsens with movement
  • Reduced flexibility
  • A crunching feeling or sound

You may also experience numbness, tingling, or pinching sensations if the inflammation compresses part of your spinal cord or a peripheral nerve that extends out into your body.

This may cause sciatica pain or even cervical radiculopathy depending on what nerves are being compressed.

When the cartilage starts to wear away – resulting in painful bone-on-bone contact – it can also cause the bone to weaken and break, creating spinal fractures.

How Is Arthritis in the Spine Diagnosed?

The physicians at OrthoNeuro provide thorough exams and tests to diagnose the different types of arthritis in the spine, including osteoarthritis. 

After reviewing your symptoms and medical history, your doctor will perform a physical exam to evaluate your overall health, musculoskeletal status, nerve function, and reflexes.

Your physician will also look for problematic vertebrae. 

They will test your range of motion to determine how your pain and stiffness affect your daily activities that require bending, twisting, and reaching.

Your doctor may also ask you to walk around the office or perform some simple exercises.

You may need X-rays to help your doctor identify the damage or bone spurs. MRIs and CT scans also provide information about your bone health.

How Is Arthritis in The Spine Treated?

Your arthritis treatment plan will be tailored to address your specific needs, restore joint function, and reduce joint pain.

Your treatments may include:


Your physician may prescribe over-the-counter medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and other pain relievers.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy can improve your muscle strength and enhance support around your spine, which can offer pain relief.

Regular exercise can help with weight management, which reduces stress on your back.

Spine Injections

The team of doctors at OrthoNeuro also offers steroid injections that deliver anti-inflammatories and pain medications directly into the damaged tissue to reduce inflammation in your spine.

This can relieve compression on your nerve roots and stop arthritis-related pain signals.

Call OrthoNeuro today or make an appointment online if you have any signs of arthritis of the spine and want expert treatment.

Make an Appointment with an OrthoNeuro Spine Surgeon Today!

If you have been experiencing symptoms of arthritis in the spine, schedule an appointment with one of our Board Certified Spine Specialists at one of our 7 convenient locations throughout Greater Columbus. 

We will evaluate your unique lifestyle and goals to determine which type of treatment is best for you. 

Spine Care Specialists


“I recently had surgery on my lower back. I had heard that such surgery would result in pain and cause me difficulties in doing ordinary daily tasks but, I experienced no pain and was able to do normal activities at home and at church. Also, being a bee keeper, I was able to work the hives and extract the honey from most of the hives”

James B.