Do you have Osteoarthritis? Find out what your symptoms mean—in a few painless clicks.
What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is the leading cause of joint disability in the United States. The condition, which affects 30 million Americans, typically emerges in middle-age. This is because osteoarthritis results from the cumulative impact of everyday wear and tear on our joints. Similar to how friction can wear down household surfaces such as wood or stone stairs, aging wears down the protective cartilage that cushions our bones. As our cartilage deteriorates, our vertebrae are left defenseless against the ordinary movements of neighboring bones.
Specifically, our facet joints permit for the articulation (movement) of each vertebra in our spine. These joints connect on the back side of our spine and consist of two friction-reducing components: cartilage and lubrication-filled sacs that contain synovial fluid.
The everyday mechanical trauma of bone gliding against bone can cause the cartilage that protects our facet joints to erode. This process—whereby bones begin to grind into one another instead of glide—is referred to as spinal osteoarthritis. In addition to causing the release of inflammatory proteins known as cytokines, spinal osteoarthritis can promote bone spur growth.
However, osteoarthritis can affect any area of the body that continually moves or bears weight. If you have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis of the spine, for example, you may also experience osteoarthritis of the hands, shoulders, hips, knees, or feet.
Some individuals are more likely to develop osteoarthritis than others because of a variety of factors. For instance:
- Genetics: For some individuals, osteoarthritis is an inherited condition. Our genes not only affect whether or not our bones fit properly together with minimal friction, but also, the ability of our cartilage to withstand constant motion.
- Injury: Sports injuries or sudden falls can instantaneously rip the cartilage that safeguards the facet joints. Even micro-tears in cartilage can spark the process of facet joint degeneration.
- Occupation: Jobs that place repetitive strain on the neck and back (e.g. manual labor, nursing, or working from a desk or chair) can accelerate the rate of cartilage breakdown on the facet joints.
- Obesity: Obesity overstresses the joints, intensifying the impact with which bones grind against one another during normal articulation.
- Disease: The presence of certain diseases (such as Paget’s Disease or Rheumatoid Arthritis) can advance the progression of osteoarthritis.
Approximately 30 million Americans live with osteoarthritis every day. Are you one of them? Dr. Frazier—our Harvard-trained spine expert—specializes in osteoarthritis prevention and minimally invasive recovery. At NYC Spine, we believe that every patient deserves to lead a pain-free life!
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What are the Symptoms of Osteoarthritis?
Many people don’t notice the symptoms of osteoarthritis—at first. It’s easy to dismiss minor aches and pains as the ordinary strain of work, stress, or aging. Symptoms of osteoarthritis begin subtly, with early morning stiffness or end of the evening discomfort as the only clue. However, as time goes by, your symptoms will become more evident. You may notice:
- Inflammation: As osteoarthritis advances, increased inflammation is a common symptom, which can decrease the range of motion in the affected area. While degenerative changes to the joint itself may be irreversible, inflammation can be treated by restoring the patient’s spinal flexibility.
- Back or Neck Stiffness: Stiffness upon waking, more ease of movement as the day progresses, and stiffness in the evening are a typical pattern which may be exacerbated by fluid retention.
- Lower Back Pain: Achiness in the lower back or pain that radiates from the sciatic nerve of the lumbar spine and into the buttocks, thighs, and feet (known as sciatica) may occur.
- Burning Pain: Burning pain is felt in the lower back, buttocks, hips, and legs.
- Pain during Sleep: Pain that interferes with sleep is a common symptom of osteoarthritis. People often ignore low-level aches and pains throughout the day, then feel them more prominently once they are trying to fall sleep.
- Localized Swelling or Warmth during Weather Changes: The ups and downs of barometric pressure can trigger swelling.
- Tenderness: Even a light source of pressure, such as a touch to the area, can cause tenderness.
- Pain Aggravated by Motion: Localized pain in the spine may intensify with certain movements, such as stooping over at the waist or rotating the head.
- Loss of Flexibility: Inability to bend down and pick up something is a typical symptom of osteoarthritis.
- Crunching Sound or Feeling: You may feel or hear a crunching sound as bone grinds against bone.
- Pinching, Tingling, or Numbness: These symptoms, often experienced in the upper or lower extremities, may be caused by bone spurs that form near joints.
If you have been suffering from the chronic pain of spinal osteoarthritis, you need qualified intervention from a spine specialist whom you can trust to alleviate your pain. Dr. Frazier, board certified spine expert and surgical technology consultant, has twice been awarded the title of “New York Super Doctor” for his mastery of minimally invasive surgery.
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What are the Treatments for Osteoarthritis?
Before discussing treatment options for spinal osteoarthritis, you should consult with a specialist who is trained in diagnosing different forms of spinal degeneration. Early intervention can help you to manage your symptoms and to halt the progression of your osteoarthritis. Common nonsurgical interventions for osteoarthritis may include: medications (such as analgesics, topical pain relievers, or anti-inflammatory drugs); physical therapy (to loosen up tight joints and restore joint mobility); or steroidal injections at the site of inflamed spinal tissues.
Surgery is usually considered as a last resort for osteoarthritis after conservative treatment options have been exhausted. If you have been deemed a candidate for spine surgery, Dr. Frazier may recommend one of the following minimally invasive techniques:
- Lumbar Laminectomy: A Lumbar Laminectomy is a cutting-edge surgical procedure that involves removal of the lamina—the bony outer casing of a vertebra that encloses the spinal cord. Excision of the lamina allows your surgeon to decompress pinched nerve tissue that causes the characteristic pain associated with osteoarthritis.
- Endoscopic Foraminotomy: During an Endoscopic Foraminotomy, your surgeon performs the entire procedure through a narrow guiding tube. Using a flexible camera (known as an endoscope), your surgeon can extract bone spurs that form on the borders of the foramina (nerve passageways in vertebrae).
No matter which treatment is the most effective for your osteoarthritis, Dr. Frazier will ensure that you receive the highest quality of personalized care. Contact Dr. Frazier and his team of spine specialists at (212) 506 – 0240 to schedule an appointment today!
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Dr. Frazier is a Harvard-trained, board certified orthopedic spine surgeon. He’s held an academic appointment at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and New York’s SUNY Downstate. Dr. Frazier is also a respected lecturer, accomplished researcher, published author on spine disorders and treatment, and a consultant for several international spine companies.
After completing his undergraduate education at Brown University, Dr. Frazier attended Harvard Medical School, where he graduated cum laude. He completed a Harvard internship based at the New England Deaconess Hospital in Boston, MA, followed by a Harvard combined residency before becoming chief resident at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Education & Training
MD / Cum Laude
Harvard Medical School
Mass. General Hospital
Spinal Deformity Fellowship
Doctor’s Hospital (Miami, FL)