Osteoarthritis is also known as degenerative joint disease. It is a condition in which the protective cartilage that cushions the tops of bones degenerates, or wears down. This causes swelling and pain. It may also cause the development of osteophytes, or bone spurs. Osteoarthritis of the spine is a breakdown of the cartilage of the joints and discs in the neck and lower back.
- Localized tenderness when the joint or affected area of the spine is pressed.
- Steady or intermittent pain in a joint, which is often described as an aching type of pain. The pain may be aggravated by motion.
- A sensation of pinching, tingling, or numbness in a nerve or the spinal cord, which can occur when bone spurs form at the edge of the joints of the spine and irritate the nerves.
Most cases of spinal osteoarthritis can be treated without surgery, but surgery is sometimes performed. Spinal osteoarthritis is one of the causes of spinal stenosis, or narrowing of the spinal canal. In cases where bladder and bowel function is impaired, where the nervous system is damaged, or when walking becomes very difficult, surgery will likely be recommended.