Arthritis of the spine can occur with misuse, injury or aging. Arthritis of the spine is often referred to as spondylosis. It typically involves the facet joints. Arthritis of the facet joints is often referred to as facet arthropathy. A result of arthritis in the facet joints is the formation of bone spurs and enlarging of the facet joints called facet hypertrophy.
Facet arthritis is inflammation in the facet joints. This inflammation can cause the erosion of the cartilage in the joint that would normally allow for smooth gliding and motion of the two adjacent articulating vertebrae. The loss of cartilage in the joint and bone spurs can cause restricted motion and pain. This is often very debilitating. Other areas of the body may also be affected by arthritis, including the hands, hips and knees.
The symptoms of spinal arthritis can be quite intense. For some individuals, it causes morning stiffness in your back but it can also cause a pain or numbness in any area of the back or neck. If you have lower back pain, it may also radiate down into the pelvic area, buttocks and legs. Some people experience the sound that occurs when bone is rubbing against bone as a crack or pop or there can be a crunching feeling that occurs. Spinal arthritis reduces your ability to be able to move about as you would like and may limit your ability to bend over or walk.
Symptoms of arthritis of the spine are typically neck and back pain. Bone spurring and enlarging of the facet joints that can take up space and pinch nerves will result in arm and leg pain, numbness, tingling and/or weakness.
Anti-inflammatories and facet injections with very small amounts of a local anesthestic and/or steroid can provide short and long term relief of symptoms. If the facet injections are successful but wear off a minimally invasive pain procedure called a rhizotomy or radio frequency ablation or medial branch block can be performed with a needle as opposed to surgical incisions. These procedures use anesthetic blocks or burn the nerves to decrease the pain.
In situations that are refractory to the above treatments a very small incision often 3 mm to 15 mm can be used to spread muscle down to the spine. The bone spurs are shaved off which allows for more space for the nerves resulting in less pain, numbness, and tingling. No retractors are used in these procedures so muscles are not going to be torn or cut which minimizes your recovery time.