Patients with back pain may experience some amount of discomfort or disability due injuries that are restricted to the back, as well as other orthopedic conditions that affect joints throughout the body. Let's take a look at several categories of orthopedic conditions which may affect the health and stability of the back, including arthritis, osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease, fibromyalgia, osteoporosis, and sacroiliac joint dysfunction.
Arthritis: Arthritis technically means the inflammation of the joint. The joints in our body may become inflamed when they become torn, lose much of their mass, and due to inflammatory conditions such as osteoarthritis. Due to the inflammation at the joints, patients may experience sharp or dull pain, as well as a lack of flexibility and mobility. Though arthritis and osteoarthritis are sometimes used interchangeably, there are really two main categories of arthritis, with very different causal factors. The two main categories of arthritis are inflammatory arthritis and osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is typically caused by the wear and tear of the cartilage in the joint structure. The joint tissues becomes thinner as all of us get older, though the rate of this wear and tear may be faster in some, compared to others. Some factors that may involve how quickly our joints may become worn out include a person's general fitness level, nutritional factors, type of occupation, and whether or not there has been a previous injury to that joint.
As a result of wear and tear types of arthritis, the joint tissue becomes worn out to the point that the bones begin to rub together. This may result in the wearing out of the bone, and abnormal new bone growth. This abnormal new bone growth may cause spinal stenosis, which results in a narrowing of the canal that houses the spinal cord. Abnormal new bone growth may also take the form of osteophytes (bone spurs) which irritate the soft tissues that they come in contact with, such as the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and fascia. The fascia is the connective tissue coverings of the muscles, as well as other soft tissues of the musculoskeletal system.
When osteoarthritis occurs in the spine, it may result in a fusion of previously separated spinal structures, or the overall destabilization of the spine. Both of these changes to the anatomy and physiology of the spine may result in pain and physical limitation. Osteoarthritis of the spine may lead to a thickening of the bones, causing a variety of changes to the spine and the nerves that travel between the bones and cavities within the bones. Conditions associated with arthritis of the spine include sciatica, spinal stenosis, back pain, irritated nerves, osteophytes (bone spurs), and lost flexibility. Other back terms that are sometimes used interchangeably with osteoarthritis include degenerative joint disease and spondylosis. Let's take a closer look at osteoarthritis of the spine.
Osteoarthritis of the Spine: Osteoarthritis is a general term that describes a condition where the joints that separate moving bones become irritated or inflamed, resulting in swelling and pain. In the spine, the joints include the discs that separate the vertebral bones, facet joints, and sacroiliac joints. There are many different reasons why these joint structures become irritated. They could become inflamed due to a loss of joint mass, systemic disease, neurologic disease, or infection. Nearly 50 million Americans suffers from some type of arthritis, and many have arthritis in their spine, which contributes to so many lower back pain cases.
Osteoarthritis most often affects the joints that separate the weight bearing bones, such as those in the knees, hips, and joints in the lumbar spine. Normal joints are hinges which connect and separate the ends of bones that slide against one another or rotate around one another. These hinges are composed of cartilage and lubricated inside a closed sack by synovial fluid.
Healthy joints move easily and prevent any friction between the ends of the bones where they come in contact with the joint. As the joint ages, however, the cartilage becomes rough and worn out. The wearing out of this cartilage tissue causes the joint halves to rub against each other, creating inflammation, pain, and possibly the development of bone spurs. The fluid lubricant may become thin and the joint lining may become inflamed and swollen. Osteoarthritis of the spine, also known as spinal arthritis, is one of the most common causes of back pain. Typically, spinal arthritis describes the degeneration of the cartilage that separates the facets, in the facet joints. The facet joints are less commonly known as zygapophyseal joints or vertebral joints. These joints become more inflamed as joints slowly or rapidly loss more of their cartilage tissue. As the joint cartilage continues to deteriorate, the back will continue to become stiffer, making back motion more difficult or painful.
The spine becomes more unstable as a result of osteoarthritis of the spine. The adaptive response of the body is to remake the lost bone caused by the rubbing friction of bone on bone contact. As the bone becomes worn out by friction, the body is rebuilding this damaged portion of the bone by adding new bone to these areas. The processes by which ne bone is grown to replace the old bone may also include the development of bone growths that are designed to reduce joint instability. These new none growths are also called osteophytes (bone spurs).