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