We create new possibilities for life We create new possibilities for life

WhatsApp Appointment

Orchard +65 8111 7777

Novena +65 8111 5777

  • Mount Elizabeth

Spinal Arthritis

  • What is spinal arthritis?

    Spinal arthritis is a chronic condition affecting the spine that is characterised by pain, stiffness and reduced motion. It can occur anywhere along the spine, but is most commonly seen in the neck and lower back.

    Spinal arthritis is sometimes referred to as back arthritis or lumbar arthritis. It is broadly categorised into 2 types, namely degenerative and / or inflammatory.

    Types of spinal arthritis

    • Spinal osteoarthritis – the most common form of arthritis, it can affect any joint in the body. In the spine, it is the weakening and thinning of the cartilage between the vertebrae of the lumbar. Also known as degenerative arthritis of the spine, it is a progressive condition, meaning most patients are middle-aged and older.
    • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) – an inflammatory form of arthritis that is more prevalent in women. RA is an autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks its own healthy joints and connective tissues. When it attacks the spine, it occurs mainly at the cervical (neck) joints, targeting the synovial joints and causing inflammation and swelling. It is considered the most debilitating form of arthritis as it can cause deformity and severe disability.
    • Ankylosing spondylitis – a chronic condition, it is also inflammatory in nature. It is the most common form of spondyloarthritis, an umbrella term for inflammatory diseases affecting the back, pelvis and neck. It can progressively cause some of the small bones in the spine to fuse together, resulting in spinal inflexibility and also affecting posture.

    Other types of spinal arthritis can be caused by underlying infections or diseases such as psoriasis and lupus.

    Spinal arthritis

  • While there is no known definitive cause, spinal arthritis is largely attributed to wear and tear and autoimmune triggers, with different types of arthritis damaging joints differently.

    Over time, wear and tear results in the breakdown of the protected cartilage between bones. This thinning cushion between the bones causes the bones at the joint to rub together, resulting in pain and swelling.

    In other instances such as rheumatoid arthritis, the body triggers an autoimmune reaction and attacks its own tissues, resulting in inflammation of the facet joints in the spine or sacroiliac joints between the spine and pelvis as well as in the neck lead to spinal arthritis.

    Risk factors of spinal arthritis

    • Age – the risk of arthritis increases with age, with most patients diagnosed from 45 years onwards
    • Congenital defects
    • Family history – genes play a role in certain types of arthritis
    • Gender – women are more at risk for rheumatoid arthritis
    • Obesity – excess weight adds more pressure to the joints, worsening wear and tear
    • Trauma and injury – acute spinal trauma and inflammation can subsequently lead to osteoarthritis in later life
  • The primary symptoms can differ for each patient and with different types of spinal arthritis. Some experience minimal and manageable discomfort while others facing debilitating conditions.

    Symptoms of spinal arthritis include:

    • Decreased flexibility of the spine
    • Fatigue
    • Intermittent pain, generally an “achy” feeling of varying degrees that can be aggravated by movement
    • Localised tenderness at the affected area
    • Muscle weakness
    • Pain and stiffness, primarily in the neck and lower back. It can also occur in other areas near the spine, close to the buttocks and shoulders, or radiate to the hip. Stiffness and reduced movement are often felt after periods of inactivity, especially in the morning. This “first movement pain” usually eases after the patient moves and may sometimes worsen later in the day.
    • Swelling of joints
    • Tingling, weakness and numbness suggesting possible nerve compression. This can also cause unsteadiness and problems walking, decreased bladder and bowel control and also erectile dysfunction in men.

    These symptoms may vary depending on the type of spinal arthritis you experience. For example, in ankylosing spondylitis, symptoms normally begin in the lower back, hips or shoulders while RA usually affects the smaller joints first.

  • Spinal arthritis is clinically diagnosed based on a physical examination and a review of your history of symptoms. Your doctor may also recommend diagnostic imaging tests such as an X-ray or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to better identify the affected joints, bone damage, bone spurs and possible damage to discs and nerves. Blood tests can also help in identifying specific types of spinal arthritis.

  • Spinal arthritis is a non-reversible condition. Treatment goals are to manage pain and prevent or delay further joint damage. The focus is to reduce symptoms and improve quality of life.

    These can be achieved through a combination of:

    • Drugs and corticosteroid (either orally or injected) to reduce pain and swelling
    • Exercise to strengthen muscles, increase flexibility and increase blood flow
    • Hot or cold compresses
    • Massage, acupuncture or nutrition supplements
    • Prescription drugs
    • Physiotherapy to reduce stiffness, improve range of motion and strengthen muscles
    • Topical analgesics over the affected area

    Spinal surgery may be necessary if conservative management fails to provide relief or if symptoms are severe and/or spinal nerves are impinged.

    Make an Appointment Make an Enquiry

  • Patients with spinal arthritis can develop further complications, especially those involving nerves. Depending on the type of spinal arthritis you have, some of these complications include:

    • Spinal stenosis – The wear and tear of spinal arthritis can lead to a narrowing of the spine which then puts pressure on the spinal cord. Usually affecting people 50 years and older, it can cause pain in the lower back and neck, numbness or weakness in arms and legs and foot problems.
    • Sciatica – Typically caused by a herniated disc or bone spurs as a result of spinal osteoarthritis, sciatica also manifests as pain that radiates down the legs. It is increasingly common with age.
  • Our Specialists

    There are 89 SpecialistsView All

    • Alan Cheung

      Specialty:
      Orthopaedic Surgery

      View Profile

      Clinic:
      International Orthopaedic Clinic
      Location:
      38 Irrawaddy Road #05-24
      Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre
      Singapore 329563
      Contact No:
      6253 7111
    • Anandakumar S/O Vellasamy

      Specialty:
      Orthopaedic Surgery

      View Profile

      Clinic:
      Centre For Foot And Ankle Surgery
      Location:
      38 Irrawaddy Road #10-34/35
      Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre
      Singapore 329563
      Contact No:
      6684 5828
    • Andrew Quoc Dutton

      Specialty:
      Orthopaedic Surgery

      View Profile

      Clinic:
      Elite Orthopaedics Pte Ltd
      Location:
      3 Mount Elizabeth #12-10
      Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre
      Singapore 228510
      Contact No:
      6836 8000
    • Ang Chia Liang

      Specialty:
      Orthopaedic Surgery
      Sub-specialty:
      Orthopaedic Surgery - Sports Medicine

      View Profile

      Clinic:
      Centurion Orthopaedic Centre
      Location:
      38 Irrawaddy Road #08-35
      Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre
      Singapore 329563
      Contact No:
      6970 5835
    • Ang Kian Chuan

      Specialty:
      Orthopaedic Surgery

      View Profile

      Clinic:
      Orthosports Orthopaedic Surgery & Sports Medicine
      Location:
      38 Irrawaddy Road #10-41
      Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre
      Singapore 329563
      Contact No:
      6734 8168
    • Antony Gardner

      Specialty:
      Orthopaedic Surgery

      View Profile

      Clinic:
      Orthopaedic Associates
      Location:
      38 Irrawaddy Road #11-49/50/51
      Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre
      Singapore 329563
      Contact No:
      6334 0622
      Clinic:
      Orthopaedic Associates
      Location:
      3 Mount Elizabeth #16-03
      Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre
      Singapore 228510
      Contact No:
      62358755
    • Bell David Paul

      Specialty:
      Orthopaedic Surgery

      View Profile

      Clinic:
      Orthosports Orthopaedic Surgery & Sports Medicine
      Location:
      38 Irrawaddy Road #10-41
      Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre
      Singapore 329563
      Contact No:
      6734 8168
    • Bose Kamal

      Specialty:
      Orthopaedic Surgery

      View Profile

      Clinic:
      Bose Bone, Joint & Spine Clinic
      Location:
      3 Mount Elizabeth #14-12
      Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre
      Singapore 228510
      Contact No:
      67387155
    • Chan Beng Kuen

      Specialty:
      Orthopaedic Surgery

      View Profile

      Clinic:
      Orthopaedics International
      Location:
      3 Mount Elizabeth #06-03
      Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre
      Singapore 228510
      Contact No:
      67376386
    • Chan Ying Ho Henry

      Specialty:
      Orthopaedic Surgery

      View Profile

      Clinic:
      Hc Orthopaedic Surgery
      Location:
      3 Mount Elizabeth #15-14
      Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre
      Singapore 228510
      Contact No:
      6732 8848

    There are 89 SpecialistsView All

  • Related Health Articles

  • Multimedia