Osteoarthritis And Back Pain

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Osteoarthritis And Back Pain: aka Degenerative Spinal Joint Disease, Low Back Pain, Degenerative Joint Disease




What is it?


Osteoarthritis is a disease that affects the joints; many refer to it as degenerative joint disease. It is a common type of arthritis or disease causing joint pain that affects the joints as people tend to age and affects millions of people each year.


This condition is not the same as rheumatoid arthritis, which is an inflammatory form of arthritis. Osteoarthritis is a form of arthritis that may not cause inflammation, but nonetheless results in debilitating joint pain. Typically osteoarthritis results in the breakdown of cartilage, a spongy substance between the bones and the joints in the human body. This prevents the bones from gliding smoothly over each other, which can cause greater wear and tear on the body.


As this happens, joint mobility can decrease causing pain and discomfort.


There are many causes for osteoarthritis and back pain. These include:


  • Aging, because as people age their joints are more likely to deteriorate resulting in bone loss and deterioration of the cartilage.
  • Being female, as women are more prone to osteoarthritis than men are.
  • Some hereditary factors, as certain people are more likely to become subject to joint deformity than others.
  • Injuries, which can predispose the joints to wear and tear or deformity.
  • Obesity, because this puts added strain on the joints and ligaments.


Certain diseases also place extra wear and tear on the ligaments and cartilage including rheumatoid arthritis, gout and other disorders. It is possible to have other diseases affecting the joints with osteoarthritis, which can increase back pain and discomfort.


The primary signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis include aching joints that typically hurt worse after a long day of work or after exercise. Usually people find the pain associated with osteoarthritis tends to come and go but gets worse if the joints are used too often. Common signs and symptoms include:


  • Decreased flexibility in the joints and pain
  • Stiffness when getting out of bed
  • Swelling and tenderness of the joints, although inflammation is more commonly associated with other forms of arthritis
  • Feeling of crackling and crunching in the joints
  • Nodules or small lumps in the bones and fingers at the base of certain joints including in the thumb most commonly




The Operation


While there is no cure for osteoarthritis and back pain some patients in very severe cases may consider spinal surgery to help relieve some of the chronic pain associated with osteoarthritis. This may also help relieve some of the back pain associated with damage to the joints. Spinal surgery is an independent condition. Some forms of surgery help to relieve nerve compression that can occur when discs erode and place pressure on the underlying nerve root. Sometimes this disc compression therapy is replaced with a fusion spinal surgery if the patient also suffers from slipped or herniated discs.




Alternatives to Surgery


The spine is most often affected by osteoarthritis. This results in stiffness and pain in the back and in the neck. Weakness is also apparent in the arms and the legs. Many people find it helps to support the neck and back and to receive regular therapy. Other areas of pain include the hips, knees and the hands.


There are not many surgical options available to heal or cure osteoarthritis as there is no cure. However therapy in the form of pool therapy, physical therapy and other manipulative therapies including chiropractic therapy and gentle exercise can provide gentle relief and increase mobility for some patients.


It is important to use the joints gently and to avoid overusing them to help inspire relief of back pain and other joint pain when osteoarthritis is present.


Pain control is often also available in the form of medications including the use of some anti-inflammatory agents and in the form of some corticosteroid medications that can help control swelling and discomfort.


Some patients find improving muscle strength can help with back pain. Weight control will also help reduce the strain placed on joints which over time can help improve a patient’s prognosis and help reduce pain.




Before the Operation


Prior to any surgery the doctor will perform a complete medical history and review the benefits and risks of surgery with you. If you smoke you will need to stop smoking. Your doctor will also likely have you stop taking any anti-inflammatory medications to reduce the risk of bruising and severe bleeding during surgery.




After the Operation- In the Hospital


You may stay in the hospital a few days to recover from your surgery. Your doctor and nurse will have you up and walking as soon as possible to improve flexibility, reduce your risk of clots and hasten your recovery.




After the Operation- At Home


You will find it helpful to have someone with you in the first few days home. You will also need to have someone with you to drive you home. Make sure you avoid any heavy lifting and when you lift make sure you lift from the knees and not from the waist up to avoid re-injuring your back.




Possible Complications


Possible complications may include an infection, herniations of the discs, increasing back pain and nerve root damage or further damage to the back. It is important you discuss these risks and other risks with your doctor. Remember that spinal surgery is usually reserved for severe cases of chronic back pain. Not all patients with osteoarthritis are candidates for surgery.




General Advice


As with any major surgery, it is advised to have at least 2 medical opinions prior to scheduling the surgery.

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