Back Arthritis

By Sally Ann Quirke, Chartered Physiotherapist | Filed under: Arthritis and Back Pain


Back Arthritis
Arthritis in the Back

Back Arthritis is one of the most common causes of back pain that I see in my practice. Arthritis in the back (and arthritis in general) is very normal and does not need to be associated with pain in many situations. After all, we are all predisposed to wear and tear in the body over time, which is what arthritis is in essence.

However, wear and tear of your body’s joints can cause problems stiffness and inflammation in the back - leading to pain and given that you are reading this article, you are probably suffering some discomfort or pain and are wondering whether arthritis may be the cause.

In this section, we go through a simple introduction on the different types of spine arthritis and where it can effect the back. There are links to learn more about the types of arthritis and where it can occur in the back.

Types of Arthritis in the back

There are 2 main types of arthritis:

  1. Osteoarthritis - is where the natural affects of age and wear and tear affect the condition of your joints. The wear and tear generally happens as a result of this movement, and the effected joints becomes stiff and restricted. Morning stiffness is common. This is normal but the symptoms associated with this wear and tear, if not treated may cause further dysfunction and problems over time. If you ignore this stiffness in the back, pain may increase and your arthritis deteriorate further, but if you treat it early enough movement can be maintained and pain eliminated fully in most cases. Read more about Osteoarthritis of the Spine.

  2. Rheumatoid Arthritis - is where there is more than wear and tear and is a chronic inflammatory disease. Basically it is an ongoing condition where the joints become inflamed. It is more commonly found in places like the hips, hands, elbows and knees, but it can also affect the spine and can lead to deterioration of the spine in sever cases. However, this condition is manageable through medical drug intervention as well as physiotherapy.

  3. It is also worth mentioning here Ankylosing spondylosis here - a type of chronic inflammatory arthritis and autoimmune disease. It mainly affects the joints of your spine and pelvis and as it progresses may result in a fusion within your spine.

Treatment for arthritis in the spine is decided by the type and severity of your back arthritis as well as your overall health condition.There are many options, so seek the best option for you by talking to a chartered physiotherapist as well as a rheumatologist. The earlier you get any symptoms investigated Avoid medication unless necessary is my advice.

Where does back arthritis commonly occur?

Arthritis can affect any part of the back, but from the patients I treat, it tends to affect three main areas:

  1. Lower back - the lower back tends to be one of the most common areas where arthritis affects. Generally it is because this area of the back experiences the greatest stress in both weight and movement over our lifetimes, leading to wear and tear. .

  2. Cervical spine arthritis - is where joints in your neck become stiff and painful due to the effects of wear and tear related to movement and posture. You may have difficulty turning your head to the left or right in the car depending on where the arthritis is affecting you most. Read more about Cervical Spine Arthritis.

  3. Hip arthritis - I have included it here, as it is a common condition. Arthritis in the hip is where the ball and socket joint of your hip is stiff and painful due to a wearing process in the joint. Difficulty putting on your trousers is common, as is morning stiffness. Read more about Arthritis and Hip Pain.

Arthritis also commonly occurs in other parts of the body and back. You may also be interested in reading about arthritis of the neck as well as shoulder arthritis.

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Resources for Arthritis

  • The Arthritis Foundation: The Arthritis Foundation provides a really helpful website full of information and resources, access to optimal care, advancements in science and community connections. They also publish ‘Arthritis Today’, the award-winning magazine that reaches 4.2 million readers

  • Arthritis Research UK A UK based charity that researches the preventing and finding a cure for arthritis, as we’ll as funding research into the lives of those with arthritis.

While the content and materials contained in the articles on this website have been written & researched by Sally Ann Quirke, a professional, practising & fully qualified Chartered Physiotherapist (Physical Therapist) based in Ireland, they are provided for general information and educational purposes only. They do not constitute medical advice on any particular individual situation. Please see your Chartered Physiotherapist or other medical practitioner for full and individual consultation.

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