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Arthritis and 10 Other Diseases That Affect the Back

While any part of the back can be affected, the lower back is the most common site of arthritis pain, most likely because it bears more of the body's weight.

If you are experiencing low back pain, read on to find out why you may be feeling this way.

According to the Arthritis Organization, “Many forms of arthritis and related conditions that affect the joints, muscles and/or bones can cause problems like pain, stiffness and swelling in the back. While any part of the back can be affected, the lower back is the most common site of arthritis back pain, most likely because it bears more of the body’s weight.

Back Pain Can Be a Result From One of These Conditions:

General Back Arthritis
From cartilage breakdown to muscle inflammation, these problems may be to blame for back pain. Many forms of arthritis and related conditions that affect the joints, muscles and/or bones can cause problems like pain, stiffness and swelling in the back. While any part of the back can be affected, the lower back is the most common site of arthritis back pain most likely because it bears more of the body’s weight. Several forms of arthritis – collectively referred to as the spondyloarthropathies (meaning spinal arthritis)– primarily affect the spine.

Ankylosing Spondylitis
Ankylosing spondylitis is a chronic inflammatory disease that primarily affects the spine, particularly the sacroiliac joints near the pelvis and the hip joints. Ankylosing is a term meaning stiff or rigid and spondylitis means inflammation of the spine.

Enthesitis
This is an inflammation of the place where ligaments and muscles attach to bones and account for much of the pain and stiffness of ankylosing spondylitis. This inflammation eventually can lead to bony fusion of the joints (where the fibrous ligaments transform to the bone, and the joint permanently grows together). Other joints can develop synovitis (inflammation of the lining of the joint) with lower limb joints more commonly involved than upper limb joints.

Juvenile Spondyloarthropathy
Also called juvenile-onset spondyloarthritis (spinal arthritis), this term is used to describe spondyloarthropathies that begin before age 16. In addition to affecting the spine, they may cause pain and inflammation in the joints of the pelvis, hips, ankles, and knees. They may also affect other body organs such as the eyes, skin, and bowels.

Osteoarthritis
The most common form of arthritis of the back, osteoarthritis is a chronic condition characterized by the breakdown of the cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones where they meet to form joints. In the spine, this breakdown occurs in the cartilage of the facet joints, where the vertebrae join. As a result, movement of the bones can cause irritation, further damage and the formation of bony outgrowths called spurs. These spurs can press on nerves, causing pain. New bone formation can also lead to narrowing of the spinal canal, known as spinal stenosis.

Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease of the joints that occurs when the body’s immune system – which normally protects us from infection – mistakenly attacks the synovium, the thin membrane that lines the joints. Although rheumatoid arthritis most commonly affects the hips, knees, hands, wrists, feet, elbows and ankles, it can also affect the facet joints in the spine, causing pain and, in severe cases, destruction of the joints. This may allow the upper vertebra to slide forward on top of the lower vertebra, a condition called spondylolisthesis. The slipped vertebra may put pressure on the spinal cord and/or the nerve roots where they exit the spine.

Infectious Arthritis
Also called septic arthritis, infectious arthritis refers to arthritis that is caused by an infection within a joint. It can occur in the facet joints of the spine. Infectious arthritis is often caused by bacteria that spread through the bloodstream to the joint. Sometimes it is caused by viruses or fungi.

Polymyalgia Rheumatica
An inflammatory disorder that causes widespread muscle pain and stiffness, polymyalgia rheumatica mainly affects the neck, shoulders, upper arms, lower back, thighs, and hips. The disease often comes on suddenly and resolves on its own in a year or two.

Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is a condition in which the bones lose so much mass that they become brittle and prone to break with slight trauma. The condition, which can occur with aging, inactivity, a low-calcium diet or use of corticosteroid medications, commonly affects the spine. When this occurs in the spine, the inner spongy bone and a more solid outer portion of the vertebrae become porous. The weakened vertebrae can break – an injury called a compression fracture – and lose about one-half of their height. In most cases, compression fractures are painful. In some cases, the resulting back pain is severe. Usually, the pain resolves within a few weeks but for some people it is long-lasting.

Spinal Stenosis
Literally meaning spinal narrowing spinal stenosis can occur when changes in arthritis lead to bony overgrowth of the vertebrae and thickening of the ligaments. This can occur with osteoarthritis or ankylosing spondylitis. If a significant overgrowth occurs, it can cause the spinal column to narrow and press on the nerves housed within. Because the affected nerves have many functions, the condition may cause diverse problems in the lower body, including back pain, pain or numbness in the legs, constipation or urinary incontinence.

Paget’s Disease of Bone
Paget’s disease is a chronic disorder in which excessive breakdown and formation of bone causing the bones to become enlarged, misshapen and weakened. The disease usually does not affect the entire skeleton, but just one or a few bones. The vertebrae are among the bones most commonly affected by Paget’s disease.

Sciatica
This is inflammation of the sciatic nerve. The largest nerve in the human body, the sciatic nerve runs from the lower part of the spinal cord, through the buttock and down the back of the leg to the foot. The most common causes of sciatica include compression of the nerve where it exits the spine by a herniated disc or a rupture of one of the structures that cushion the vertebrae in the spine. Sciatica may be felt as a sharp or burning pain that radiates from the hip. It may also be accompanied by low back pain.

Scoliosis
Instead of running straight up the center of the back, a spine with scoliosis twists to one side. Scoliosis can be classified as true (meaning it has to do with the abnormal development of the spine) or functional (meaning its cause is not directly related to the spine). Functional scoliosis may occur when a discrepancy in leg length causes the pelvis to tilt to one side to compensate. The cause of true scoliosis is largely unknown, although doctors suspect that it may be the result of imbalanced growth in childhood.

Are you feeling pain, stiffness or swelling in the back? Do any of these conditions sound like how you feel? If so, we are right with you. We always say, when in doubt, get checked out —so why not make that appointment and see your doctor. Your body will thank you.

Originally published at backernation.com

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