Spinal Arthritis: A pain in the back and neck

What is Spinal Arthritis? 

Arthritis is not one single condition – it is an umbrella term used mainly to describe joint pain, joint disease and joint inflammation, and related conditions that can occur in different parts of your body, and in different levels of severity. 

The most common spinal arthritis is inflammation of the facet joints, which are the connective joints between the bones of the spine. Each spinal vertebrae level has a left and a right facet joint. A different common type of spinal arthritis occurs in the sacroiliac joints, these are the joints at the base of the spine that connect the spine to the pelvis. Spinal arthritis in the neck can also be called cervical spondylosis. In the lower back it would be called lumbar spondylosis. 

Another type of spinal arthritis occurs in the bony canal that your spinal nerve roots, which radiate from your spinal cord, travel through to reach the parts of your body that they supply nerve function to. This type of spinal arthritis is called spinal foraminal stenosis.

There are a number of different reasons for, and causes of, arthritis, including wear and tear, autoimmune disorders, infection, or other conditions. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis of the spine, which usually arises from degeneration and wear and tear over time. You might see words like osteophytes which are bony spurs or mild, moderate, or severe degenerative changes on your X-Ray, CT or MRI scan report. 

If you have autoimmune spinal arthritis, your joints can go through periods called flare ups in which you will feel your symptoms more. A bone scan during an active flare up will show up as red hot spots because during a flare up your levels of inflammation are very high.

While it can seem daunting and scary, an arthritis diagnosis is not the end of the world. With City Physiotherapy’s help, we are confident that we will help you get back on track and so you can do all the things you love again. You don’t have to live in constant pain and become more immobile. City Physiotherapy can help you lead a better life without as much pain. 

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What is the difference between inflammatory arthritis and osteoarthritis of the spine? 

There are many different forms of arthritis that can be felt in the back and neck – inflammatory arthritis or osteoarthritis of the spine. 

Rheumatoid arthritis is the most common type of inflammatory arthritis. Other types of arthritis you may have heard of are ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, spondyloarthropathy, gout, lupus, and many more. It is not known what exactly causes inflammatory arthritis but occurs when the immune system attacks the joints. It can sometimes be linked to other autoimmune disorders because it is linked to the immune system. There is often a genetic predisposition to inflammatory arthritis so understanding your family history is very important.

Osteoarthritis, however, is a result of the wear and tear of the joints and occurs over time. This is the most common type of arthritis, and commonly affects the lower back, neck, or spinal joints. 

What are the symptoms of arthritis in the back? 

Pain and Stiffness 

Arthritis in the spine can be felt in the back or neck. Pain can radiate from your spinal joints to be felt in other parts of your body as well. It can be very painful, particularly after being immobile for long periods of time. This means feelings of pain and stiffness can be especially prominent when you first wake up in the morning or if you have been sitting for a long time. 

Loss of Flexibility 

People who suffer from spinal arthritis often struggle with a loss of flexibility and range of motion. The stiffness and pain can cause difficulty doing everyday tasks straightening your back, moving your neck and head, standing up, or even walking. 

Weakness and Fatigue 

If you suffer from inflammatory arthritis, you might experience increased fatigue or notice weakness in other areas of your body. This is because inflammatory arthritis attacks the immune system. 

Managing Spinal Arthritis: Treatment and Wellbeing 

Spinal Arthritis Prevention

Unfortunately, spinal arthritis is not completely preventable. However, there are a number of things you can do to lower your risk of developing spinal arthritis, and to slow down the extent of development. 

Risk Factors for Spinal Arthritis

The following factors increase your risk of developing arthritis in the spine and back: 

  • age
  • lifestyle, in particular a lack of exercise and limited mobility 
  • presence of autoimmune conditions and triggers 
  • injury or trauma to a joint 
  • genetic predisposition
  • Prolonged high stress levels
  • Poor sleep

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How can I lower my risk of developing spinal arthritis? 

Remain Active 

Regular physical activity will keep you mobile and keep your joints feeling healthy. Low impact exercise such as walking, swimming, cycling, Pilates or yoga will not put too much stress on the back and spine. Building strength in the neck and back is also important, as it helps support the joints and reduces stress on the joints around the spine. It is important that this is done in such a way as to protect your spine. Your physiotherapist is the best person to provide you with appropriate exercises.

Eat Healthy 

Eating a healthy diet to prevent inflammation can help with curbing inflammation and improving joint pain and other symptoms, as well as helping to maintain a healthy weight. A recommended diet is one similar to the Mediterranean diet, which includes healthy fats including fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts and beans, but low in saturated fats and processed sugar. 

Treatment for Spinal Arthritis

At City Physio Adelaide, we care about you and want to see you get back on track. All of our treatment is tailored to your body and your lifestyle, and your overall general health is considered so that your spine, circulatory, immune and nervous systems are always protected. We are committed to helping you get rid of your chronic pain and lead a happy and healthy life.

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Physiotherapy Exercises 

Your physiotherapist at City Physio will assess your condition, developing a personalised plan that addresses your specific issue and needs. It will be suitable for your lifestyle, ensuring holistic wellbeing. 

The focus of back pain treatment and physical therapy is in the lower back, or lumbar spine, to build strength in the core muscle group, which includes the back, abdomen, thighs, and glutes. Building strength in these areas will support and stabilise the spine, reducing the stress and impact on the spine. 

Hands-on Physiotherapy 

Your physiotherapist may also use hands-on treatment, including spinal mobilisation and spinal manipulation, to release tight muscles and fascia around your stiff spinal joints to improve the range of motion. 

The clinical effects and benefits of hands-on physiotherapy include: 

  • pain relief 
  • improved range of motion
  • relief from stiffness in the spine and joints 
  • better sleep
  • decrease stress levels

Remedial Massage 

Remedial massage at City Physio is able to target specific areas of your body that are suffering from the symptoms of arthritis – including the back and neck. Massage improved blood flow to the area, relieving pain and inflammation in and around the joint. This has the flow-on effect of improving range of motion and increasing quality of life. 

Dry Needling 

Dry Needling is a specialised form of treatment designed to reduce pain and inflammation and is a common treatment for spinal arthritis. It provides relief and relaxation to the muscles and joints around the back and neck. Dry Needling has also been shown to work directly on the nervous system, calming it down and flushing away nasty inflammatory cells that build up around spinal joints and tight muscles.

Read more about our Dry Needling here. 

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Contact City Physiotherapy Today 

If you have spinal arthritis, or if you are at greater risk of developing arthritis in the back or neck, book an appointment with City Physio Adelaide to discuss your treatment and preventative treatment options. We can assess you to determine the exact source of your pain, the best treatments for you, and how to prevent and diminish further pain. 

Book an assessment of your back and spine from one of our physiotherapists online today! Start your journey towards recovery and wellness with City Physiotherapy Adelaide.

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