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Back Arthritis

What is back arthritis?

Arthritis is a condition that can cause pain and stiffness in any joint in the body, including your back. Back arthritis can also be known as spinal arthritis since it affects the joints in the spine. You’re most likely to experience pain from arthritis in your lower back, although it can affect any area. 

The joints in your spine are called facets. Facets are lined with cartilage that allow for movement as the joints in the spine rub together. When the cartilage gets damaged, it causes friction in the joints, which leads to inflammation. This inflammation can lead to back pain. 

What types of back arthritis are there?

There are many types of arthritis that can affect your back, but the two most common types are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. 

  • Osteoarthritis is a musculoskeletal condition that causes wearing down of the cartilage. This is the most common type of arthritis. 
  • Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that targets the synovium (the lining of the joints). 

Other types of arthritis that can cause back pain can be caused by conditions, such as:

  • Infections
  • Other autoimmune diseases (like lupus or psoriasis)
  • Crystals forming in joints (gout) 

What are the symptoms of back arthritis?

The main symptoms of back arthritis are pain, stiffness, swelling, and warmth in your back. Back arthritis can also cause stiffness and pain in your neck.

  • The pain is usually worse in the morning after you wake up.
  • The pain often gets better throughout the day and worsens again in the evening. 
  • Swelling and warmth can get worse when the weather changes.
  • There can be tenderness when certain areas in the spine are pressed.

You could have mobility issues, like loss of flexibility of the joints in your back.

Osteoarthritis only affects the joints. But rheumatoid arthritis can damage other parts of the body as well and lead to bone erosion or joint deformities. 

Rheumatoid arthritis can cause other symptoms, such as:

  • Fever, weight loss, or fatigue
  • Problems with other parts of the body, such as the skin, eyes, heart, or blood vessels

How do doctors diagnose back arthritis?

To diagnosis arthritis, your doctor will do a physical exam that involves checking the joints in your back for swelling, redness, or warmth. They will also ask you to move your affected joints to evaluate the mobility in your back and to find out whether moving your back causes pain. 

Your doctor may also order lab tests to diagnose the specific type of arthritis, including:

  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests
  • Joint fluid tests

You may also be given imaging tests, such as:

  • X-ray
  • CT scan
  • MRI scan
  • Ultrasound

Beaumont offers treatment for back arthritis

Treatment for back arthritis can depend on the kind of arthritis that is affecting your back. Arthritis treatment typically focuses on a combination of pain management to relieve symptoms, physical therapy, and other treatments to help improve joint function and mobility. Our specialists at Beaumont have the experience and expertise to successfully treat your back condition. If you have osteoarthritis, you may work with orthopedic specialists. If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you may work with a rheumatologist. You may also work with our spine specialists. Regardless of who you see, you can count on the team at Beaumont to be with you throughout your treatment.

Nonsurgical treatments for back arthritis

Depending on the type of arthritis you have and how it is affecting your back, your may treat you with medications, like:

  • Pain relieving medications (like acetaminophen) 
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, like ibuprofen) to both relieve pain and reduce inflammation
  • Creams and ointments that can relieve pain
  • Corticosteroids, such as prednisone and cortisone, either taken by mouth or injected into a joint, to decrease inflammation and reduce pain
  • Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and biologics if you have rheumatoid arthritis

Beaumont specialists may also work with you on a treatment plan that includes:

  • Physical therapy to help improve mobility and strengthen muscles surrounding the affected joint(s)
  • Occupational therapy to teach ways you can protect joints and modify activities to reduce pain and improve function
  • Lifestyle changes and self-care, such as exercising and losing weight
  • Heat and ice therapy to relieve pain
  • Assistive devices, like walkers and canes, to help with mobility
  • Alternative medicine options, like massage and yoga

Surgical treatments for back arthritis

If your back arthritis is severe and causing complications, you and your doctor may decide that surgery is the right treatment for you. Surgeons at Beaumont have successfully treated arthritis, providing pain relief and functionality restoration.

Our spine surgery team includes board-certified orthopedic spine surgeons and neurosurgical spine specialists as well as rehabilitation professionals. Many Beaumont spine surgeons are leaders in their field. Their innovative research expands the boundaries of spine surgery, with the latest options always available to you.

Make an appointment at Beaumont

If you are having back, spine, or neck pain, call 800-633-7377 to get a referral to a Beaumont specialist and make an appointment. We have a team of specialists ready to determine the best treatment option for you.

Call 800-633-7377 to make an appointment.