Osteoarthritis of the Spine

Osteoarthritis of the spine, also known as degenerative disc disease, is a common condition that involves the breakdown and deterioration of the cartilage that cushions the vertebrae in the spine. This condition can lead to the development of bone spurs, a narrowing of the spaces between the vertebrae, and a loss of flexibility in the spine. Osteoarthritis of the spine is more commonly seen in older individuals, although it can occur in younger individuals as well. The condition can cause pain, stiffness, and limited mobility in the spine, and it can also lead to other complications such as nerve compression and spinal cord compression.

Causes of Osteoarthritis of the Spine

The exact cause of osteoarthritis of the spine is not fully understood, but it is believed to be a combination of factors such as aging, wear and tear, and genetic predisposition. Some of the possible causes of osteoarthritis of the spine include:

Age: As a person ages, the cartilage in the spine can begin to deteriorate and become less resilient, making it more susceptible to damage and wear and tear.

Repetitive stress: Repetitive stress on the spine, such as from lifting heavy objects, can cause damage to the cartilage and other structures in the spine.

Trauma: A spinal injury or trauma can damage the cartilage and cause changes in the structure of the spine that lead to osteoarthritis.

Genetics: Some individuals may be genetically predisposed to developing osteoarthritis of the spine, as it can run in families.

Obesity: Being overweight or obese can increase the stress on the spine and accelerate the degeneration of the cartilage.

Other health conditions: Certain health conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or metabolic disorders, can also contribute to the development of osteoarthritis of the spine.

Overall, the development of osteoarthritis of the spine is usually a combination of factors, and the exact causes can vary from person to person.

Signs and Symptoms of Osteoarthritis of the Spine

The signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis of the spine can vary from person to person, depending on the severity of the condition. Some of the common signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis of the spine include:

  • Pain: The most common symptom of osteoarthritis of the spine is pain, which can be mild to severe. The pain is often described as a dull ache that may be worse with movement or activity and can be located in the neck or lower back.
  • Stiffness: Stiffness in the spine, especially in the morning, is a common symptom of osteoarthritis. It may take some time for the spine to loosen up after waking up.
  • Limited range of motion: As the condition progresses, the spine may become less flexible and have a limited range of motion.
  • Numbness or tingling: In severe cases, osteoarthritis of the spine can cause nerve compression, leading to numbness or tingling in the arms or legs.
  • Weakness: Weakness in the arms or legs may occur if nerve compression is severe.
  • Grinding sensation: People with osteoarthritis of the spine may also feel a grinding or popping sensation in their spine as they move.
  • Bone spurs: Bone spurs may develop as a result of osteoarthritis of the spine, leading to further compression of the nerves.

Overall, the symptoms of osteoarthritis of the spine can be quite debilitating, and can interfere with daily activities and quality of life. If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to seek medical attention to get an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Treatment for Osteoarthritis of the Spine

Physiotherapy can play an important role in the management of osteoarthritis of the spine and can help to reduce pain, improve mobility, and enhance overall function. The following are some common physiotherapy treatment approaches for osteoarthritis of the spine:

Exercise: A physiotherapist can develop a tailored exercise program to help improve the strength and flexibility of the spine, which can help to reduce pain and improve mobility.

Manual therapy: Manual therapy techniques, such as mobilization or manipulation of the spine, can be used to improve joint mobility and reduce pain.

Posture and body mechanics: A physiotherapist can provide guidance on proper posture and body mechanics to reduce stress on the spine and prevent further damage.

Pain management: Various pain management techniques such as hot or cold therapy, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), and ultrasound can be used to help reduce pain.

Education: A physiotherapist can provide education on self-management strategies such as home exercises, activity modification, and pain management techniques to help individuals manage their condition at home.

Aquatic therapy: Aquatic therapy, such as water aerobics or swimming, can be helpful for individuals with osteoarthritis of the spine, as it allows for low-impact exercise in a buoyant environment.

Overall, a physiotherapist can work with individuals with osteoarthritis of the spine to develop an individualized treatment plan that addresses their specific needs and goals. By working closely with a physiotherapist, individuals with osteoarthritis of the spine can improve their overall function and quality of life.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to a therapist about osteoarthritis of the spine please call us at 03 9836 1126.



Stuber, K. J., & Sajko, S. S. (2020). Conservative management of lumbar spinal stenosis with motor control exercises and manual therapy: A systematic review. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics

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