What’s Causing My Spinal Arthritis?

What’s Causing My Spinal Arthritis?

Spinal arthritis is an inflammation of the facet joints in your spine or sacroiliac joints that connect the spine to the pelvis. Inflammation can sometimes affect the points where ligaments and tendons join to the bones of the spine.

The most common type of arthritis to affect the spine is osteoarthritis, and while it can occur anywhere along the spine, the lower back and neck are typically affected. Pain and stiffness are common.

Board-certified orthopedic surgeon Thomas Jones II, MD, of The Spine Institute of Southeast Texas, treats a range of spinal problems, including arthritis. The journey to finding the best solution starts with a proper diagnosis. If you’re diagnosed with spinal arthritis, the type of arthritis you have and how it affects your spine is key for treatment recommendations.

Spinal osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis — degenerative or noninflammatory arthritis — is the most prevalent form of spine arthritis. It typically affects the lower back and is caused by general wear-and-tear. As cartilage between the joints gradually deteriorates, it causes irritation and pain.

Because the discomfort is caused by mechanical trauma, it’s usually more apparent when you bend or twist your back. Back injuries that occurred in the past may also contribute to the onset of degenerative arthritis of the spine.

Osteoarthritis of the spine typically affects the intervertebral facet joints. It’s also known as facet disease, facet joint arthritis, and facet joint condition. Disc degeneration may in rare situations contribute to facet joint arthritis.

As the intervertebral discs become thin, greater pressure is applied to the facet joints, causing damage.

This disorder is known as cervical spondylosis when these degenerative alterations affect the neck (cervical spine). Neck arthritis isn’t always painful, and many people have no obvious symptoms.

Spinal rheumatoid arthritis (RA)

Spinal rheumatoid arthritis is not caused by wear-and-tear; instead, it’s an inflammatory form of arthritis. Even when these joints are not in use, it can cause pain. It affects women more frequently than men.

RA is an autoimmune disorder, which means your immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue. In RA, the immune system targets synovium, which is the joint lining. Although rheumatoid arthritis is more prevalent in other joints, it can also affect the cervical spine.


Spondyloarthritis is a collection of inflammatory illnesses that affect both the joints and the attachment points of ligaments and tendons to the bones. Although spondyloarthritis is inflammatory in nature, it’s different from rheumatoid arthritis.

There are several types of spondyloarthritis, some of which are more prevalent in the spine:

Ankylosing spondylitis: This form of spinal arthritis can result in inflammation of the vertebrae and sacroiliac joints at the base of the spine. In serious situations, several vertebrae may fuse together, resulting in a hunched back.

Psoriatic arthritis: A complication of psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis is an inflammatory illness. Psoriasis normally develops before arthritis, however the order can occasionally be reversed. Despite being more prevalent in smaller joints, psoriatic arthritis can also affect the spine.

Reactive arthritis: This type of arthritis is joint inflammation caused by an infection elsewhere in the body. Reactive arthritis in the spine typically affects the lower back and often resolves on its own.

Symptoms of spinal arthritis

Symptoms of spinal arthritis vary among individuals. Common signs and symptoms are:

Some patients may experience pain before arthritis is evident on an X-ray.

Knowing the cause of your arthritis can give you a better understanding of your prognosis and treatment options. Treatment for spinal arthritis may involve steroid injections, pain medication, physical therapy or surgery. 

If you have spinal arthritis, we can help you get relief. To get started, call the office near you — we have locations in Pearland and Lake Jackson, Texas — to schedule a consultation with Dr. Jones. You can also take advantage of telemedicine to stay connected to top quality care.

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