Stiff and painful joints can be frustrating, especially when it comes to your knees and hands, but if it’s affecting your back then it can be almost unbearable at times. This stiffness and pain could be due to arthritis, especially in older age. Whether it’s caused by wear and tear over time, genetic predisposition or other factors, it can stop you enjoying life properly.
To assist with those who are suffering from arthritis of the spine, here are some tips for managing pain.
What is arthritis of the spine?
The spine is made up of connected bones called vertebrae that stabilise your body, guide movement and protect your spinal column. Each of these vertebrae are connected and move with and against each other through a layer of cartilage that allows for smooth and comfortable movement.
When this cartilage is worn away, damaged or affected by disease, it leads to painful inflammation and stiffness in the joint between the vertebrae. This is generally referred to as arthritis.
There are a range of different types of arthritis that affect the spine in different ways, including the following.
Osteoarthritis: Wear and tear of the joints in the spine that causes pain and grinding. This is often caused by poor diet, excess weight, overt and excessive repetitive strain (like constant heavy lifting and poor posture) as well as genetic factors. This is by far the most common type of arthritis that affects the spine
Spondyloarthritis: This is a more painful form of arthritis that tends to affect the lower sacral spine (in between the hips and pelvis), it affects the tendons and ligaments surrounding the spine. Generally, it will affect younger people only and is relatively uncommon.
Psoriatic arthritis: When those with psoriasis develop arthritis and lower back pain in the lumbar area.
Rheumatoid arthritis: This almost exclusively affects the supper spine in the neck and can be very painful. It’s primarily caused by genetic issues.
Arthritis of the spine: tips for managing symptoms
If you’re suffering from back and neck pain, including stiffness, aching and a lack of mobility, it is worth speaking to your doctor to test for spinal arthritis. The condition is normally confirmed by an X-ray or other imaging.
Arthritis itself is a degenerative condition, and while you can’t cure or reverse it, you can alleviate the symptoms, and slow down the progression of wear.
While it’s best to work alongside your doctor to form the best treatment plan, there are still lots that can be done. Here are some simple tips to make life with spinal arthritis easier.
1. Physiotherapy and exercise
Seeing a physiotherapist to set up regular stretches and exercises is a great long-term way to strengthen the muscles around the spine. In particular core strengthening helps, and low impact activities like swimming and hydrotherapy are ideal.
2. Lifestyle changes
Lifestyle factors like smoking, poor diet and excessive alcohol consumption can all aggravate and contribute to arthritis. Quitting smoking, cutting down on alcohol and reducing sugar and fat in your diet will all help.
3. Weight loss
Excess weight can be one of the most deteriorating effects on arthritis, especially in the spine. Bringing your weight down to within 10kg of your ideal BMI weight is a great way to reduce the physical strain on the spine, and has a wide range of other health benefits.
4. Wearing a back brace
A back brace can assist to support the back and alleviate pain. A brace such as the LumboLoc is designed to be worn all day. This back support is anatomically contoured to the body, providing stability and promoting correct posture in the lumbar region.
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