Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis that can impact your spine. It can affect all connective tissue in your neck and back joints, and also cause inflammation in those joint linings. But before turning to medical and surgical treatments, adopting some lifestyle changes may keep your spinal arthritis pain and discomfort under control, and even improve your general health.
A Brief Overview of Spinal Arthritis
While arthritis can affect any spinal joint, those in your lower back, or lumbar region, and your cervical spine, in the neck, are frequent targets. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of spinal arthritis, affecting over 32.5 million adults in the US. A “wear and tear disease,” it develops when the protective cartilage between joints slowly breaks down. Symptoms typically develop slowly and worsen gradually, and may include pain, joint stiffness, tenderness, loss of flexibility, a grating sensation, swelling, and bone spurs.
Lifestyle Changes To Manage Spinal Arthritis Pain
With osteoarthritis, any joint damage cannot be reversed, but symptoms can be managed. Certain lifestyle changes may reduce your pain, slow additional damage, and improve your joint function.
1. Seeing an Interventional Pain Management Specialist
An interventional pain management specialist is a type of doctor that focuses on the diagnosis, managment, and treatment of a wide range of pain conditions, including osteoarthritis. They specialize in non-surgical, minimally invasive treatments that offer long-lasting relief by targeting the root cause of your pain. Seeing an interventional pain management specialist can be helpful in that they will quickly diagnose and devise a treatment plan that can reduce your symptoms, prevent the disease from worsening, and promote improved function.
2. Physical Activity
For adults with osteoarthritis, any amount of regular physical activity may reduce pain and improve function and general quality of life. This may also benefit sleep, mood, bone and brain health, and weight control. However, when engaging in any physical activity, be sure to take proper precautions for protecting your joints, as any injuries could cause or worsen osteoarthritis. You may prefer to choose low-impact activities, like walking or bicycling. You can also minimize or prevent joint injuries by wearing protective equipment and avoiding repetitive motions.
3. Physical Therapy
Doctors often recommend physical therapy for spinal osteoarthritis pain management. This form of care can improve your spine’s range of motion and back muscle strength, while also reducing joint stress. For osteoarthritis of the lumbar spine (i.e. the lower back), your physical therapist will focus on strengthening the core muscle groups that support and stabilize the spine. They reduce the impact of the body’s weight on the spine during movement. For osteoarthritis of the cervical spine (i.e. the neck), the focus is stretching and strengthening the muscle groups in the neck and shoulders, both for protection and to promote flexibility.
4. Proper Posture
Maintaining good posture helps to place less strain on your back. When seated, keep your feet flat on the floor, relax your shoulders, and ensure your lower and middle back are supported. When standing, stay straight-backed, relax the shoulders, and keep your head up.
5. Weight Management
With osteoarthritis, it’s important to maintain a healthy weight, as being overweight or obese can increase spinal joint stress, and may speed up the disease’s progress. Weight loss can reduce pain, improve physical function, build bone mass, increase muscle strength, and benefit overall health. No matter your age, engage in low-impact, physical activity and consume a healthy diet.
Schedule a Pain Management Consultation for Spinal Arthritis
Spinal arthritis pain can impact your life, but with certain medical interventions and lifestyle changes, you can manage and improve your quality of life. The interventional pain management doctors and physical therapists at The Spine & Sports Health Center can help. Schedule an appointment at one of our Hoboken, Jersey City, or Bayonne, NJ locations. We’ll discuss your concerns, evaluate all contributing factors, and design a personalized treatment plan.