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Older woman holding back in pain due to arthritis, wondering How Arthritis Affects Your Spine..

How Arthritis Affects Your Spine

When thinking about arthritis, many people think about pain and lack of mobility in the hands and fingers. However, since arthritis is a medical condition that impacts the joints of the body, it can happen anywhere there are joints: which means, the spine is fair game.

The common symptoms of arthritis are pain, lack of flexibility, and inflammation. While it can be difficult enough dealing with it in the hands, as it impacts your spine it can be even more difficult to get around and do everyday tasks.

To learn more about how arthritis affects your spine from the experts at Alliance Spine and Pain Specialists, keep reading below.

Types of Spinal Arthritis

Osteoarthritis

As the most common form of spinal arthritis, this impacts the lower back and is usually caused by common wear and tear of everyday life. The cartilage between the spinal facet joints naturally fades through the years, which means those joint surfaces begin to rub against each other. This then leads to the tell-tale signs of spinal arthritis, such as pain and lack of flexibility.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

An autoimmune disorder, this occurs when the immune system attacks the synovium, also known as the lining of the joints. It can happen during any age as, unlike osteoarthritis, it doesn’t naturally develop over time.

It is usually more common in other areas of the body, but it can still happen to the spine.

Spondyloarthritis

Similar to rheumatoid arthritis, spondyloarthritis is an inflammatory disease that impacts the joints, ligaments, and tendons of the spine. It can be triggered by other previous diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease or an infection.

Symptoms of Spinal Arthritis

Here are the symptoms of arthritis in the spine:

  • Pain in the back.
  • Fatigue.
  • Loss of flexibility in the back.
  • Headaches.
  • Grinding sensation in the spine when moving.
  • Swelling in the back.
  • Tenderness in the back.

Treatment of Spinal Arthritis

Osteoarthritis

As with many other medical conditions, the type of treatment that works best for spinal arthritis will depend on many factors, such as type of spinal arthritis, age, and pain level.

Keeping that in mind, here are several of the most common treatment options:

  • Medications.
  • Lifestyle changes, such as stopping smoking or losing weight.
  • Physical therapy.
  • Radiofrequency ablation of the nerves to the facet joints.
  • Surgery is rarely an option for spinal arthritis symptoms alone.

If you have any more questions about how arthritis affects your spine, Alliance Spine and Pain is here to help. Reach out to any of our back-strengthening specialists by clicking here or by giving us a call at 770-929-9033.

Doctor shows x-ray results to patient on a digital tablet, dealing with spinal tumor.

101 on Spine Tumors

Spine tumors affect about 10,000 people a year in the United States. These masses of tissue grow in the back and neck area, usually becoming very large and have a possibility of expanding beyond control. They can be either benign, which means they are non-cancerous, or they can be cancerous, which is also called malignant.

Unfortunately, it’s not known what causes spinal tumors. Still, there is a lot to learn about this medical issue.

Keep reading below to learn more about spine tumors.

What Types of Spine Tumors Are There?

There are multiple types of tumors, all depending on the location of the tumor. The first major type of spine tumors depends on where the tumor is located on the back. Cervical spine tumors occur on the neck area, thoracic spine tumors occur in the middle back area, lumbar spine tumors happen in the lower back area, and sacrum spine tumors appear in the hip area.

The second major type of spine tumor divides the above forms into even more kinds, depending on where in the makeup of the spine the tumor is located.

Intradural-extramedullary tumors happen in the inside covering of the spinal cord, also called the dura. This means they are outside the actual spinal cord. Intramedullary tumors grow inside the spinal cord. Extradural grow outside both the thin covering and the spinal cord.

What Are the Symptoms?

Here are the most common symptoms of spine tumors:

  • Back pain
  • Difficulty walking
  • Bowel and bladder issues
  • Paralysis
  • Stiff back and neck
  • Tingling and other pain issues
  • Loss of sensitivity in the area
  • Spinal deformities like scoliosis

What Is the Treatment?

There are two major types of treatment options for those with spinal tumors. The first is non-surgical. This type of treatment includes chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and general observation to see if the tumor continues to grow and does require further treatment.

The second type is surgery, which means that your physician will have to remove the tumor completely from your body. What type of surgery you require will be determined by what kind of tumor you have.

If you have one, your physician will be able to help you develop a treatment plan that will get rid of the mass.

If you’re facing spine tumors and would like to know your treatment options, the experts at Alliance Spine and Pain Centers would be happy to discuss. Give us a call at 770-929-9033 or schedule an appointment.

An x-ray inspired image of a boyd with the brain and spine highlighted in orange.

A Breakdown of Spine Anatomy

The spine and the central nervous system, where the spine lives, is a complex piece of our human anatomy. There are many bones, ligaments, and muscles to know if you are a specialist working in this field.

However, it is useful to know the basics in case you ever find yourself with spine issues and problems later down the road, even if you aren’t a physician. That’s why we’re breaking down the basics of spine anatomy below, just enough to keep you in the know of how things work back there.

Curves

A healthy spine will normally have a natural S-shaped curve. It helps our spine absorb shock, keep balance, and have a full range of motion.

That spine actually consists of three main types of curves. The first curve happens at the neck, and it is called a cervical curve. The second curve is at the middle back and called a thoracic curve, while the third curve is the lumbar curve that occurs at the lower back.

Bones

The spine is made up of 33 different bones, called vertebras. These bones are broken down into five different regions: the cervical region at the neck, the thoracic region at the mid-back, the lumbar region at the low back, the sacrum which connects the spine to the hip bones, and the coccyx region which is where the tailbone is located.

In between all of these bones is something called the intervertebral disc, a cushion that keeps the bones from rubbing against each other and breaking down. Unfortunately, while we age, these discs begin to break down naturally and can eventually cause issues, such as pinched nerves and decreased mobility.

Alongside the discs are facet joints, and each vertebra has four of them. These allow the range of motion that our back if capable of doing.

While there is more information available about all of the vertebrae that make up the spine, this is the basic knowledge you need to know to keep yourself educated.

Muscles

There are two major groups of muscles in the spine. The first is called extensors, which are attached to the back of the spine. They allow us to stand up and lift objects. The second group, called flexors, is in front of the spine. They allow us to flex and bend forward.

Ligaments

Ligaments are defined as strong, fibrous bands that hold the bones together in the spine. There are three main types of ligaments: ligamentum flavum, anterior longitudinal ligament (ALL), and posterior longitudinal ligament (PLL).

Nerves

Almost as numerous as the number of bones in your spine are the number of spinal nerves that branch off from them. There are 31 pairs in total and cover the entire body.  They are in charge of the feeling and movement in your body and spine.

The above information is a basic summary of all of the complex medical elements of the spine and the back. If you would like to learn more, call the experts at Alliance Spine and Pain Centers at 770-929-9033 or click here to schedule an appointment.

Senior couple doing exercise at home with physiotherapist, wondering how does the spine age.

How Does Your Spine Age?

As we grow older, it’s common for many parts of our body to begin to ache and stiffen. Unfortunately, the spine is also more likely to have severe medical issues arise throughout the years. Spine conditions such as degenerative disk disease and spinal stenosis increase in risk for older adults.

The truth of the matter is that while some movement and functionality might be limited when you’re older, more serious symptoms could be pointing towards a medical condition. To learn what those are, keep reading below!

Common Spine Age Issues

  • Degenerative Discs: Your spine consists of bones called vertebrae that are stacked on top of each other with discs in between each bone. Over time, those discs begin to get worn down, which causes your vertebrae to rub against each other. When this happens, you may experience back pain and stiffness.
  • Spinal Stenosis: When the above happens, it can cause your spinal canal, otherwise known as the open spaces within your spine, to narrow. You’ll experience pressure on your spinal cord and pinching on your nerves, two very uncomfortable experiences. On top of that, lower back pain, numbness, and weakness in your legs are also common.
  • Facet Joint Osteoarthritis: Otherwise known as spinal arthritis, this occurs when the cartilage that separates the facet joints in your spine breaks down. This happens naturally over time, but symptoms include lower back pain and stiffness. Usually, these peak in the morning and at the end of the day.
  • Frail Vertebrae: This condition is more common for women and is also called osteoporosis. It causes the bones in your back to lose bone density and then become more fragile over time, which allows fractures to happen more easily.
  • Lumbar Spinal Stenosis: This condition is the narrowing of the spinal canal in the lower back. This also causes lower back pain and leg pain, usually most often while standing or walking.
  • Compression Fractures: More common for those experiencing osteoporosis, this happens when fractures cause the vertebral bone to partially collapse. On top of losing height, it will also cause sudden and severe back pain, spinal deformity, and inability to do physical exercise.
  • Changing Posture: From age 30 and up, small changes happen when it comes to our posture. In fact, the average person will lose about half an inch of height every 10 years after reaching their peak height. This is even more true for people over 70, and our gaits may change during that time. If your posture suddenly begins to change drastically, it could be due to any of the above issues.

How to Help Your Spine as Your Age

Like most medical conditions, there are several actions you can take before things start to spiral downhill. To be proactive, consider adding any of these routines to your schedule:

  • Exercise to not only keep off excess weight but also to strengthen your back and abdominal muscles.
  • Already experiencing chronic back pain and issues? Reach out to any of Alliance Spine and Pain’s expert care team here.
  • Work on your posture. While the fact of the matter is that our back begins to stoop more as we age, it could become so severe that it impacts our ability to walk. Make sure you’re sitting up straight and tall, especially if you work at an office all day.
  • Up your intake of calcium and vitamin D.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Make sure to eat a balanced diet of veggies, fruit, and avoid red meat.
  • If you’re often stressed, spend time relaxing and ensuring your back muscles have loosened.
  • If you notice back pain issues often in the morning, consider investing in a more supportive mattress.

If you have any more questions about how your spine ages, feel free to reach out to the expert physicians at Alliance Spine and Pain by clicking here. We’ll be happy to help!