Severe or wide-ranging osteoarthritis pain is an atypical symptomatic expression of a completely normal age-related condition. In fact, the vast majority of typical arthritic changes in the spine will never produce any pain or pathology.
Arthritis involves the structural degeneration of the bones, cartilage and joints in the body. Spinal arthritis most often affects the lumbar and cervical regions, since those are the areas that get the most use and abuse. Arthritis is an expected part of the aging process for all people.
This essay helps patients to understand how OA can cause pain, but also how many cases are mistakenly blamed for causing chronic discomfort. We will detail the possible reasons why arthritis is blamed for causing pain when in most instances there is no link between the vertebral changes and the existence of symptoms.
Osteoarthritis Pain Symptoms
Osteoarthritis pain is difficult to characterize. Most patients with arthritis suffer no pain or neurological symptoms whatsoever, or simply minor occasional aches. Some patients experience dull chronic pain in the affected region of the back. A minority of patients suffer severe pain that might cause functional disability. Arthritis pain can be dull or sharp, chronic or acute. Pain can be related to general or specific movement, or may become worse when the patient is inactive.
In cases where arthritis may affect a neurological structure, pain may exist a great distance away from the actual degenerative changes. This can make diagnosis a very subjective and inaccurate science to be sure.
Spinal Arthritis Pain
Arthritis in the spine is a normal event. Aging causes changes in our anatomy and the spine is not immune. The spine is a complicated structure with many different types of tissue working closely together. There are many joints that arthritis can attack. This makes the spinal column an ideal target for arthritis to focus upon. However, most patients do not experience any particularly severe symptoms from their spinal arthritis.
If arthritic debris or spur formation occurs around the neuroforaminal spaces or inside the central canal, then all bets are off. These scenarios can source painful symptoms, although they may also be completely innocent if not severe enough to actually compress the nerve tissue. Once again, there are many case-specific variables to consider.
Osteoarthritis Nocebo Phenomenon
The diagnosis of spinal arthritis is often the #1 reason for pain to begin. Patients are often pain-free or suffer minor discomfort and then have their arthritic condition diagnosed during a routine visit to their doctor. The doctor should inform the patient that arthritis is completely normal, yet they seldom do.
More often, the patient is frightened by the diagnosis and will receive a powerful nocebo reaction that may lead to the start of painful symptoms.
Many doctors choose to describe spinal arthritis as degenerative joint disease. This name really scares the life out of some patients who have visions of some rampant disease eating away at their spine. It can be a frightening experience for sure.
Osteoarthritis Pain and Discomfort
Do not fear typical spinal osteoarthritis. You can’t stay young forever, but old age does not have to bring pain and suffering. Stand up to arthritis and learn the facts about this condition. Even if you are in the minority who does experience moderate to severe pain, take heart. Arthritis can be treated with many conservative options and rarely requires surgery. Relax your mind about the dangers of common spinal arthritis and your future will be likely be great. Give in to the fear factor and osteoarthritis will hold power over you until the end of your days.
Remember also that the mind will use known arthritic changes to justify and bolster the credibility of psychologically-induced pain syndromes, including those typically found in the spine. Although many people do have pain that is blamed on spinal arthritic changes, many of these case profiles are not accurate in their diagnostic pronouncements. Instead, many pain syndromes are coincidental to any structural issues in the spine, which is a theory widely supported by the latest research on the actual causes of common back pain problems.