What Is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is one of the most common causes of lower back pain. It is a joint disease that results from deterioration of cartilage. Cartilage is a form of tissue that borders the edges of bones, it is flexible and elastic, which allows for smooth movement at the joints.
When cartilage of the spine deteriorates, this specifically affects the facet joints and ligaments, which can often cause swelling or pain. This can lead to the development of bone spurs, which can in turn put pressure on the nerves in your spine and cause weakness or pain in the limbs.
Do I Have Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis generally affects people as they get older. It is more likely to affect people who are overweight or undertake sporting activities and jobs that put repetitive pressure on certain joints.
Under the age of 45 Osteoarthritis is more common in men. At younger ages there may be a range of different causes, which might include injury or trauma to a joint or a genetic defect. Over the age of 45 Osteoarthritis is more common in women.
Symptoms Of Osteoarthritis:
Osteoarthritis may present in a number of ways, although it is very often associated with back pain. The pain often begins in the lower back, generally first thing in the morning and after periods of heightened activity. Other symptoms might include:
- Limited range of motion
- Weakness, numbness or pain in the arms and legs
- Stiffness of the joints
- Tenderness of the joints
When Should I Seek Treatment?
Osteoarthritis is progressive, meaning it will get worse over time unless you seek treatment to prevent the progression. It is generally recommended that you seek a medical opinion should you have any of the above symptoms; even if it is a less severe issue it is important to identify what is causing your symptoms to prevent the condition from worsening.
How Is Osteoarthritis Diagnosed?
Your consultant will take a detailed history of the complaint, including your family history, and conduct a physical examination to check for the common signs of Osteoarthritis. Medical Imaging, such as an x-ray or MRI, is often requested to confirm the diagnosis and check the severity of the condition. Your consultant will look out for characteristics such as loss of cartilage, bone damage or the development of bone spurs. They might also request a blood test or joint fluid analysis to rule out other potential causes of your symptoms.
Treating Osteoarthritis Of The Spine:
In the first instance, treatment of Osteoarthritis aims to relieve pain and improve bodily function. These might be simple measures, such as:
- Exercises, including swimming and walking
- Weight management
- Nutritional Management
Your consultant may also recommend some medications to help alleviate the painful symptoms, which might include:
- NSAIDs, such as Aspirin or Ibuprofen
Your consultant may also recommend pain relief via a steroid injection around the spinal column. Most often this would be a facet joint injection in an outpatient setting, meaning you would be able to have this treatment and leave in the same day. Less often, should you need to be sedated during the injection, this would take place in a surgical theatre.
In some cases, especially should the above conservative treatments fail, your consultant may recommend surgery.
Contact our team to find out more, on:
T. 07540 123 227