Spinal Arthritis

FAQs on Spinal Arthritis Treatment in Oklahoma

 

Arthritis affects 30 million Americans. Spinal arthritis is quite common, and people age 45 years and older are most often affected. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, and it affects the vertebral joints, which are called facet joints.

 

What are facet joints?

 

The facet joints are along the posterior side on each side of the vertebrae. They join the vertebrae together. These tiny joints provide stability and motion to the spine, and they are lined with cartilage. Facet joints facilitate bending, stretching, and twisting. These joints often thicken with age.

 

What causes spinal arthritis?

 

Cartilage breakdown of the facet joints causes spinal arthritis. Arthritis of the facet joints leads to pain, which may radiate along the affected nerves of other areas of the body, such as buttocks and thighs. Osteophytes (bone spurs) form on the vertebrae as an effort of bone attempting to repair itself. These spurs grow in response to bone-on-bone friction where there is cartilage loss. The bones will rub against each other, causing bone spur development.

 

What are the symptoms of spinal arthritis?

 

Over time, progressive facet joint degeneration creates frictional pain, resulting in stiffness, decreased back motion, and impaired flexibility. Spinal arthritis is also associated with degenerative disc disease (DDD), where the intervertebral disc tear and loose water content due to age and injury. The bone spurs are a natural response to joint instability, and occur with age. Spurs can lead to compression or irritation of spinal nerves, which causes burning and radiating pain.

 

How is spinal arthritis treated?

 

The treatment of spinal arthritis is often a combination approach. The doctor may decide to offer several treatment options. These include:

 

  • Facet joint injections – The doctor can inject the tiny facet joints with a combination of corticosteroid agents and anesthetics. This is done as an outpatient procedure, and offers long-term pain relief.

 

  • Medications – Several medications provide pain relief for people with spinal arthritis. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents are used to decrease joint inflammation and pain. In addition, antidepressants and anticonvulsants are given if nerve-related pain occurs.

 

  • Stem cell injections – The doctor may inject the tiny joints with stem cell solution. The stem cells are obtained from the patient’s bone marrow or adipose tissue. Once the stem cells are extracted from the body, they are processed in the laboratory. The solution can be injected directly into the joints to promote growth of new cartilage tissue.

 

Is stem cell therapy effective?

 

Stem cell therapy is showing evidence of efficacy in clinical studies. Many patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain have had good response with these injections. In one study, reports of pain relief occurred in all patients of 50% or more. The average improvement for both sexes at 12 to 18 months was 52%, and it was 68% at 18 to 24 months. The best response occurred in patients who received three stem cell injections for knee arthritis.

 

How do stem cells work?

 

Stem cells can transform (differentiate) into other cell types. When injected into the facet joints of the spine, they can become cartilage cells, going right to the site of injury. In addition, the stem cells contain growth factors to replaced damaged cells. They also contain hyaluronic acid, which lubricates joints, restores mobility, and eases pain.

 

What are the benefits of stem cell therapy?

 

Stem cell therapy is a safe and effective treatment. The benefits include:

 

  • Contain lubricating hyaluronic acid.
  • Contain growth factors, which stimulate tissue growth.
  • Contain no steroids, but have natural anti-inflammatory agents called cytokines.
  • Do not pose a risk for adverse reaction, as they are derived from the patient’s own body.

 

Resources

Melville NA (2014). Musculoskeletal Pain Relief with Stem Cell Injections. American Academy of Pain Management (AAPM) 25th Annual Clinical Meeting.

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