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What are the Treatments for Arthritis in the Spine?

By C. Stoliecki
Updated May 17, 2024
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Arthritis in the spine, sometimes referred to as spondylosis, can often be successfully treated with a variety of non-surgical methods. Common methods include pain-relieving solutions such as bed rest and wearing a back brace, chiropractic therapy, and physical therapy. Many times, simple lifestyle changes such as dietary alterations and weight loss are beneficial. In some cases, doctors prescribe medication to relieve pain. Surgery is rarely needed, but can be a viable option for those with severe symptoms.

In the short term, bed rest can be an effective treatment for those with acute symptoms of spinal arthritis. Often, symptoms of this disorder can come on quickly and severely. When this happens, allowing one to three days for bed rest is often enough to relieve pain and allow for the return to normal activity.

Another short-term treatment option is bracing. Wearing a back brace for no longer than a week can help to alleviate painful symptoms. Long-term use of braces is not safe as it can actually make the spinal muscles weak, increasing the symptoms associated with arthritis in the spine.

Chiropractic therapy can effectively alleviate the pain that occurs during a flare up of spinal arthritis. It does not, however, slow or cure the condition. Despite this, the realignment of the spine that occurs during a chiropractic therapy appointment has been reported as bringing relief to many of the painful symptoms caused by arthritis in the spine.

One treatment that can slow the progression of spinal arthritis is physical therapy. Physical therapy can increase the strength of spinal muscles. Stronger muscles are better able to support the spine and in doing so take some pressure off of the arthritic joints, which helps to preserve them and decrease pain. Similarly, dietary changes that result in weight loss can reduce the load that arthritic joints must support, making weight loss a viable pain relief option for those with this condition.

When bed rest, bracing, and chiropractic or physical therapies are not effective methods of treatment, doctors will often prescribe medication to alleviate symptoms. Generally, the medications prescribed are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These reduce the swelling that occurs around the affected joints, which often results in dampening pain. In more severe cases, doctors can prescribe narcotics and muscle relaxants for short time periods to stop spasms in the back muscles from occurring and to alleviate acute pain. Steroids can be administered in those with extreme symptoms via epidural injection directly to the location with the arthritis.

Surgery is rarely needed in patients with arthritis in the spine. One condition that may elicit a surgical remedy for someone suffering from spinal arthritis is an alteration in the structural stability in the spine. Bone spurs, or compressed disc tissue may need to be surgically removed. These conditions are not prevalent in patients with arthritis of the spine, although they do occur in some cases.

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