Back osteoarthritis is very common, especially in the low back.
The spine is made up of 24 articulating (moveable) bones called vertebrae and 9 fused vertebrae. These fused bones effectively make one moveable bone which is split into 2 bits called the sacrum and the coccyx. This area of fused bones is the base or foundation of the spine and like all foundations is hugely important to the stability of the whole spine.
The Metro Daily News answered a question from one of it’s readers about spinal stenosis and back osteoarthritis. Most of us with back osteoarthritis (also known as spondylosis) will have some spinal stenosis and some of us will have symptoms and others won’t.
What is spinal stenosis?
This is the description given which is clear and concise
The spine functions to protect the nerves of the spinal cord by creating a tunnel (the spinal canal) to surround the spinal cord with exit ramps (foramen) periodically along its length where nerves can leave to wend their way to other parts of the body. Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of these passageways that causes the nerves and/or the cord to be squished.
I love simple descriptions like that- don’t you?
Why does back osteoarthritis cause it?
by far, the most common cause of spinal stenosis is degeneration of the spinal structures from the natural aging process (such as osteoarthritis, disk degeneration or changes to the ligaments). Although this can occur anywhere along the spine, it is most common in the neck and lower back (the extra support of the ribs in the thoracic spine are somewhat protective against developing this condition)
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms from spinal stenosis are due to the compression of the nerves (or of the spinal cord itself). The specific symptoms depend on the location and the degree of the compression.
So if you have low back osteoarthritis you might get
gradually worsening one-sided leg pain which worsens with walking (called claudication, which can also be caused by, and hence confused with, compromised blood supply to the affected leg) and is relieved by sitting (opening up the angle of the spine) and resting. Numbness and tingling are also common.
If you get any of these symptoms please do to seek medical advise STRAIGHT AWAY.
Although uncommon, more concerning symptoms such as problems controlling urination or bowel movements, limb weakness and even paralysis can occur.
If you have neck osteoarthritis causing spinal stenosis you might get
pain, numbness and/or tingling in the upper back, neck, shoulder, arm, hand or even a foot or leg.
Treatment for Spinal Stenosis Causes by Back Osteoarthritis
Mostly spinal stenosis can be treated conservatively. This is because it is usually self limiting and the body will adjust and compensate over time. Physical therapy and correct use of heat and cold packs for back osteoarthritis will help. Really surgery is only necessary after time and all other forms of therapy have failed or if you have the bladder and bowel symptoms described above.
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