Lower back pain

Arthritis of the spine, also called spinal arthritis, is a condition that affects the joints in the back that link one bony vertebra to another. Although arthritis can occur in any part of your spine, your lower back is most commonly affected because it bears the majority of your body’s weight.

There are many types of arthritis. All of them could potentially affect your spine, but the most common forms are:

  • Osteoarthritis, which is caused by the wear and tear on your joints that occurs over time as the cartilage protecting your joints deteriorates
  • Inflammatory arthritis, which occurs when your immune system attacks and destroys your cartilage, leading to conditions like rheumatoid arthritis or ankylosing spondylitis

Symptoms, Diagnosis and Outlook

Symptoms of arthritis of the spine tend to start slowly and increase over time. Common symptoms include:

  • Lower back pain and stiffness
  • Neck pain that spreads into your arms and shoulders
  • Back pain that radiates into your legs or buttocks
  • Limited mobility and range of motion
  • Numbness or weakness in your arms or legs

Diagnosis of spinal arthritis includes:

  • Physical exam and review of your medical history
  • X-rays
  • MRI scan, if symptoms persist or worsen

Spinal arthritis is a common condition in people age 45 and older. There is no cure, but treatment and lifestyle changes can often bring lasting relief. In severe cases, spinal arthritis causes limited mobility, pain and bone deformities.

Experts in Care

Meet our doctors, view their profiles and select the one that’s right for you.

Find a doctor near you

Why Choose Penn State Health for Care

Top-Ranked by U.S. News & World Report

Penn State Health includes the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, ranked as one of the best orthopedic providers in the country by U.S. News & World Report. This honor was earned because our doctors consistently deliver exceptional patient care and outcomes through their commitment to advanced treatments, translational research and provider training.

Coordinated, Specialized Care Through a Dedicated Institute

Our orthopaedic specialists work together through our dedicated Penn State Bone and Joint Institute. There, they focus on providing you with multidisciplinary, tailored care and state-of-the-art treatments and technologies. This produces the highest-quality patient outcomes. All physicians at the institute are fellowship-trained and subspecialize in additional niche areas of orthopaedics, including arthritis care and joint arthroplasty (joint replacement surgery).

Designated as a Blue Distinction® Center

Penn State Bone and Joint Institute is a Blue Distinction Center for Knee and Hip Replacement. This superior designation from BlueCross BlueShield is only given to health care facilities and providers that stand out for their expertise in delivering specialty knee and hip replacement care. Our surgeons specialize in a range of pain-relieving procedures, including partial knee replacement, total joint arthroplasty, joint preservation surgery and complex revision surgery. They perform more than 1,000 joint replacement procedures every year.

Confidence in Treatment Through Education

We developed a special joint replacement education website just for patients undergoing joint arthroplasty. The website takes you step by step through the joint replacement process. From things to consider before choosing surgery to recovery after surgery, you’ll find the information you need to help you feel confident in your decision to undergo joint replacement.

Advancing Orthopaedic Medicine Through Research

The doctors and researchers in our Center for Orthopaedic Research and Translational Science at the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center are committed to advancing our field through scientific discovery and education. As the only academic medical center in central Pennsylvania, Hershey Medical Center is a national leader in research, in partnership with Penn State College of Medicine, and on the leading edge of new treatment options, including clinical trials.

Support Groups

Support groups provide an opportunity to share your feelings and connect with other patients and caregivers who are experiencing similar struggles.

Learn more about support groups offered

Convenient Locations

Find the care your family needs, close to home, at one of our many locations throughout central Pennsylvania.

Find a location near you