Spinal Arthritis

Spinal arthritis is common, occurring with structural changes to the spine joints. It may be caused by bone spurs (osteophytes). It’s different from sciatica, a degenerative condition that can cause pain in the arms or legs, and weakness.


  • Pain in the center of the neck or back
  • Pain that increases when you lean forward, walk or run


  • Spinal arthritis usually develops over many years but can also be the result of a sudden injury, such as a fall or lifting something incorrectly.
  • The most common type is osteoarthritis, caused by trauma or age-related deterioration of the cartilage lining of the joints.

Diagnosis and diagnostic tests

  • An exam and review of your medical history
  • Possible X-ray or MRI for more information
  • Lab tests if your doctor suspects you have an autoimmune disease
  • Medial branch block: The doctor uses an X-ray to inject a local anesthetic into the nerves around the affected joints. If this reduces your pain temporarily, it can guide the doctor to a specific treatment.


  • Physical therapy: Treatments and exercises can ease symptoms.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Medication: Doctors can prescribe medications to reduce pain.
  • Radiofrequency facet denervation: This outpatient procedure involves using a needle to end a spinal nerve’s ability to send pain signals.
  • Surgery may be recommended in severe cases. The OHSU Spine Center favors trying the least-invasive options first, however.