Arthritis, or inflammation of the joints, affects over 50 million Americans and results in tenderness, swelling, stiffness and pain in the joints. Arthritis can affect any joint, but is more commonly seen in the weight bearing joints of the hips and the knees. That being said, arthritis can also be present in various areas of the spine. Typical symptoms of both neck and lower back arthritis include intermittent pain, spinal stiffness that is especially present in the morning, limited range of motion and a crunching sound or feeling of bone rubbing against bone. There are many forms of arthritis, but the most common is osteoarthritis, which can affect the spinal canal, facet joints and the vertebral bodies.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a condition where the joint lining becomes inflamed as part of a disease process that affects the entire body. In this debilitating disease, the body’s own immune system produces substances that attack and invade the joints and surrounding tissue, destroying the joint surface. Rheumatoid arthritis can affect both large and small joints, is three times more likely to develop in women and results in pain, swelling and stiffness that is present even when the joints are not in use.

Osteoarthritis is a breakdown of the cartilage at the ends of the bones where they meet to form a joint and provide movement. Healthy cartilage allows joints to glide over one another. The deterioration of cartilage over time changes the makeup of the joint, results in the bones rubbing together and affects the proper function of the joint. There are several contributing factors to the development of osteoarthritis. These may include gender (more common in women), obesity (extra weight results in increased stress on the joints), genetics (family history of arthritis), other forms of arthritis (rheumatoid arthritis, gout), systemic diseases (diabetes) and overuse/injury (sports or work).