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.

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

Penn State Health includes the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, ranked as one of the best orthopaedic 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 advanced treatments, translational research and provider training.

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Penn State Health offers innovative, leading-edge care for complex conditions like spinal arthritis. Our team of experts uses a multidisciplinary, collaborative approach to offer a wide range of care that includes orthopaedics, neurosurgery, chronic pain management and therapy services to improve your body’s function and movement.

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