Arthritis in low back or neck

FEATURE — Arthritis in the low back (lumbar spine) commonly causes the following type of pain:  hip and buttock pain, cramping of the lower extremity but usually not below the knee, low back stiffness (especially in the morning), and pain aggravated by prolonged sitting or standing.  The most common symptoms of arthritis in the neck (cervical spine) are neck pain, headache, shoulder/scapula pain, and upper arm pain.

A less-invasive approach is physical therapy and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen and naproxen.  Often time, placing an ice-pack over the arthritic area will help decrease the inflammation as well.

When those methods are no longer effective, there are certain injections which may offer long lasting relief of arthritic spine pain. A pain specialist is invaluable for helping find relief.

“One option for decreasing inflammation in the spine is an intra-articular facet injection,” Desert Pain Specialists physician assistant Mark Udy said, ” which is a relatively simple injection of a small amount of corticosteroid directly into the joint using a live x-ray.”

If the injection provides long term relief, it can be repeated periodically; however, if the relief is effective but short lived, another option would be recommended.

“That option is radio frequency ablation,” Udy said, “which is a technique in which a needle is placed in close proximity to the small nerves in the spine which sense arthritic pain.  These particular nerves are not involved in motor function or the movement of the legs – they only sense pain coming from the affected joints of the spine.  Once accurate placement of the needle is achieved using live x-ray, a small probe is placed within the needle and using low-frequency radio waves for 90 seconds, the nerve is essentially cauterized or burned.  Successfully done, this 15 minute in-office procedure can offer up to a year or more of relief from low back and neck pain.”

Many popular, local sporting activities such as golfing, and pickle ball require repetitive spine bending and twisting which can aggravate spine arthritis, subsequently causing increased low back pain and discomfort. Many acute back related injuries will naturally heal over time with ice and anti-inflammatory medications.

Unfortunately, people who experience and suffer from chronic low back pain usually experience recurrent episodes and interfere with their ability to perform activities causing frustration and discouragement. In these cases, more invasive treatments are recommended such as epidural steroid injections and radiofrequency ablation in order to help individuals more fully enjoy the physical activities which they enjoy.

WRITTEN BY: Dr. Spencer Wells, MD, Desert Pain Specialists

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