Arthritis of the spine is a degeneration of the cartilage of joints and discs in the neck and lower back. It often presents as stiffness and pain in the neck and back, but if severe enough to affect spinal nerves or the spinal cord, can result in weakness or numbness in the legs or arms as well as impaired bowel and bladder function.
Spinal arthritis most often results from a gradual, degenerative aging process, though younger people may get the condition as a result of injury or trauma to a joint or a genetic defect involving cartilage. For individuals under age 45, the condition is more common among men, while for those over age 45, the condition is more common among women.
Doctors most commonly order X-rays to diagnose spinal arthritis, while other tests, including blood tests and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), may also be ordered to aid a diagnosis. In most cases, treatment for spinal arthritis includes strengthening and aerobic exercises, massage, acupuncture, hot or cold compresses, nutritional supplements and pain medications. In cases where the condition results in spinal stenosis, or results in walking or bowel and/or bladder difficulties, surgery is often recommended.
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