Spinal arthritis is getting very common in today’s aging population. In fact, it is one of the most common source of musculoskeletal pain to many individuals in Singapore. It is actually not a single disease, but an informal way of referring to joint pain and/or inflammation. Terms or phrases synonymous to spinal arthritis are degenerative arthritis of the spine, degenerative joint disease (DJD), or osteoarthritis (OA) of the spine. Although it is more common among the aging population, people of all ages can have spinal arthritis, Therefore, it is worth knowing some important information about it.

Spinal arthritis is a slow progressive condition and can be asymptomatic for many years. Also, it is important to note not all individuals with spinal arthritis will suffer aches and pain. However, the joint inflammation may get worse over time and cause clinical symptoms like joint swelling and pain. As the problem continues to deteriorate, spinal arthritis can cause permanent joint changes. Even though these changes may be visible, often the damage can only be seen on X-rays. When the joints become severely arthritic, it is often impossible to reverse the progression of the condition.

Common symptoms of spinal arthritis in the spine usually include:
  • Morning stiffness / pain
  • Restricted range of motion in the affected region (cervical / thoracic / lumbar)
  • Pain/tenderness (often described as deep dull ache)
  • Abnormal spinal curvatures
  • A crunching feeling or sound of bone rubbing on bone
  • nerve irritation if the severity of arthritis affects the neural tissue
  • weakness of limbs, tingling or numbness when nerves are irritated
Some findings commonly seen on X-rays (Radiologic features) :
  • Loss of joint space
  • Osteophytes (bone spurs)
  • Joint deformity
  • Joint instability
  • Subchondral sclerosis
Health consequences

Like many other chronic progressive health condition, spinal arthritis can bring harm to the body in many ways. For example, Intervertebral disc (IVD) can undergo structural damage in severe cases. As a result, joint space between two vertebrae become smaller and affects joint movements. If this continues to progress further, it can eventually lead to spinal stenosis. Bone spurs is another visible damage commonly occur in spinal arthritis. Due the formation of spurs around the spinal canal or foramina, nerve irritation can be happen. Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal that may occur in any of the regions of the spine. This narrowing causes a restriction to the spinal canal, leading to neurological deficit. In our practice, we frequently see individuals with spinal arthritis of different severity seek for alternative advice and treatment.

Osteoarthritis of the spine

Osteoarthritis of the spine

Common clinical presentation of individuals with spinal arthritis

Most of these individuals we treat have already been experiencing signs and symptoms of spinal arthritis. Furthermore, most of them have consulted or even have had some treatment from another healthcare practitioners. It is not uncommon that these individuals are taking pain medication or frequently rely on some topical analgesics to relief their daily discomfort. While it is true that most joint changes due to spinal arthritis (especially in sever form) cannot be reversed, but aggravating factors that contribute to person’s pain and discomfort should be addressed with proper care for better quality of life.

* Better quality of life means better range of motion, being more independent, experience lower intensity and frequency of pain, and enjoy other activities of daily living.

Patient’s Expectation in regards to existing spinal arthritis

As discussed, most arthritic (joint) changes observed in individuals with spinal arthritis cannot be fully reversed. However, the severity of pain and disability can often achieve great improvement. With proper nutritional care, lifestyle changes, and spinal remodeling treatment, this improvement is possible. Presenting to you is a case of a 62 years old man with neck pain and hand numbness associated to moderately severe bone spurs and spinal arthritis. So, read on our sharing on Part 2 to discover how spinal remodeling treatment has helped this individual to improve his quality of life. Moreover, he is now symptoms free and able to continue his daily activity with joy.

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