Helpful Information

Spinal Arthritis: Everything You Need to Know and More

Spinal arthritis is defined as the breakdown of the cartilage between the facet joints in the spine, leading to lower back and/or leg pain. It’s also commonly referred to as degenerative joint disease. In this blog, we share everything you need to know about spinal arthritis including symptoms, risk factors, types of spinal arthritis and how we treat it.

Symptoms of Spinal Arthritis 

While symptoms differ from person to person, the symptoms of spinal arthritis may include:

  • Back and neck pain
  • Stiffness and loss of flexibility in the spine
  • Whole-body weakness and fatigue
  • Pain and numbness in the arms or legs
  • Headaches

Cause of Spinal Arthritis & Risk Factors

The causes of spinal arthritis vary depending on what type of arthritis you have (see below). Normal wear and tear as well as autoimmune triggers are two of the most common causes, but the exact causes remain unknown. And, like with many spinal conditions, age, obesity and other underlying health issues such as diabetes, IBS and gout may put someone more at risk for developing spinal arthritis. 

Three Common Types of Spinal Arthritis


Osteoarthritis, aka degenerative arthritis, is one of the most common forms of spinal arthritis. Typically, it affects the lower back and is caused by wear and tear. This form of arthritis usually affects the facet joints between the vertebrae. It’s most noticeable when you bend or twist your back. 

Rheumatoid Arthritis of the Spine

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder where the immune system attacks the synovium or lining of the joints. While it’s more common in other parts of the body, it can affect the spine, especially near the neck. This form of arthritis also tends to affect women more than men.


Spondyloarthritis is a group of inflammatory diseases that affect the joints and locations where the ligaments and tendons are attached to the bones. Each of these diseases affects the spine, neck and back. Forms of spondyloarthritis include ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis and reactive arthritis. 

How We Treat Spinal Arthritis

How we treat spinal arthritis depends on many different factors including age, level of pain, severity of the arthritis and more. Because arthritis is irreversible, the main purpose of treatment is to manage and prevent further damage. Nonsurgical treatments include medication, physical therapy and lifestyle changes. If these treatments do not relieve pain, surgery may be needed. Surgery for spinal arthritis is typically minimally invasive and require short healing periods. 

If you are someone at risk or suffering from spinal arthritis, please request an appointment with Dr. Petersen as soon as possible.


Dr. Bendt P. Petersen is an orthopaedic and neurospine surgical specialist with over twenty years in operative clinical practice. He is a fellowship-trained surgeon whose practice is the only one in the Mobile-area devoted exclusively to the treatment of your spine.

The Center for Spine Health employs the most advanced operative and nonoperative therapies in concert with the most highly-trained physical therapists and other advanced ancillary practitioners to help you live the life you want to live.

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