Osteoarthritis and Back Pain


What is osteoarthritis? Who will it affect and how does it cause back pain?

Osteoarthritis is the most common of the arthritis varieties that affect people. It is more likely to be a problem, as a person grows older. Presently about twenty one million Americans are suffering with it. In the next twenty-five years this will be closer to seventy million ho are over sixty-five with the potential for this condition.

Even if there are no major problems by age sixty-five at least fifty percent of all people have some confirmed evidence of osteoarthritis in at least one body joint. This can be or has been confirmed by means of an x-ray.

Men are more likely to suffer from this problem by age forty-five or even younger. For women, it is more likely to begin by fifty or older.


Osteoarthritis is caused by the destruction of the cartilage that lies between the joints. It is frequently described as the shock absorber among the bones.

The job of the cartilage is to absorb the shock of everything we do that may cause friction among our joints. This includes when we walk, run, stand or just about anything else that can cause the joints to rub.


How does someone know that they might be suffering from osteoarthritis? The signs are quite clear; there will be pain and stiffness in the lower back.

This pain may radiate into the leg, arm or shoulder. There may be numbness in the limbs. It may be harder to get out of bed in the morning. Then the pain gets worse as the day wears on despite the activity.

The person will notice that there seems to be a restriction to the movement one is able to make. There is no one specific cause to this condition. Doctors feel if may even be a variety of things together.

But they definitely look at age, weight, level of activity and genetic links when preparing to diagnose. A final diagnosis will be made after a complete physical, a taking of a family history, then x-rays and likely an MRI as well. The MRI will be very valuable in seeing the damage.


Treatment is not that different than any of the other problems that cause back pain. It will begin with over the counter pain relievers and analgesics to bring down the inflammation. Next will be hot or cold packs. If this first step is not successful your health care provider will prescribe stronger anti-inflammatories for the swelling.

If the pain continues and does not let up then the next step may be an injection of cortisone to bring the swelling under control. Once these first steps are taken beginning a program of carefully designed physiotherapy exercises will help to strengthen the spine and joints, and to ease the pain.

If you are a little too heavy a weight reduction program will be started. Being overweight can be very detrimental to this condition. Only in the most extreme cases will surgery be recommended.


Last Updated on November 12, 2022