The spine is composed of bones stacked one on top of the other from the pelvis to the skull. These bones do not touch in front as the spinal discs separate them. They touch posteriorly at joints known as ‘facets joints’ at every level of the spine. These joints, like any other joint in the body, are subject to ‘wear and tear’ degeneration which increases with age. As discs degenerate they lose water and flatten out providing a decreased ‘cushioning’ effect in the spine. This flattening out causes the facet joints to bear more of the body’s weight increasing osteoarthritic change in these joints.
Arthritis in the spine often begins to appear around the age of 40 and increases in prevalence with increasing age. Various injuries to the back over time can contribute. Because your lower back bears a great amount of your bodyweight, the lower back is the most common location of arthritis back pain.
Arthritis of the spine may cause stiffness or pain in the neck or back. Bending, twisting, and rotational movements can be especially painful. Arthritic spine pain typically ebbs and flows with symptoms being particularly severe some days with few symptoms on others. It is generally worse with prolonged positioning either sitting, standing or lying. Holding one position for too long brings on the typical sense of stiffness characteristic of arthritic pain. It is often worse first thing in the morning and gets better with activity. In addition to the physical symptoms it is not uncommon to become depressed or feel helpless if they are hindered in daily recreational and lifestyle activities or even compromised in their work and job performance.