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Spinal Arthritis Treatments for Pain Management

by Patty Weasler, RN December 03, 2020 0 Comments

Woman heating pad

A spinal arthritis treatment plan is crucial. This chronic condition is characterized by irreversible damage to the structures within the spine; accompanied by back pain, stiffness, and loss of mobility. Many people find treatments like exercise, medications, lifestyle changes, and in some cases, surgery can help them manage their pain and get them back to the activities they enjoy. Read on to learn more about spinal arthritis treatment and how it can help you.

Ways to Manage Painful Symptoms

Osteoarthritis is the number one type of arthritis that causes spinal arthritis. It typically affects the lower back and is caused by degeneration from wear and tear of the spine. Here are ways you can manage the pain and stiffness associated with this condition.


When you have spinal arthritis the goal is to manage the symptoms. One way is to wear a back brace. Braces give you compression while supporting your lower back. While you will want to have some support with a brace, avoid immobilizing yourself with it. This can lead to further stiffness and pain.

Heat & Ice

Hot and cold therapy work together to provide pain relief for osteoarthritis of the spine. Try applying cold with a compression at the same time.  This convenient ice pack even allows you to adjust the compression; helping to numb the pain and reduce swelling. It’s recommended to use ice for 20 minutes at a time. Heat with a heating pad will soothe soreness in muscles and reduce stiffness. Try using heat in the morning or whenever you feel the most tightness and pain for a medication-free treatment.

How to Properly Alternate Hot & Cold Therapy

Pain Creams

Pain creams use menthol, capsaicin, and other ingredients to provide pain relief. This treatment is a good option when combined with other therapies like exercise and over-the-counter medications. There are lots of pain cream options out in the market, we recommend looking for one that not only is effective but isn’t greasy and won’t stain clothes.

Strengthening Exercises

For the treatment of spinal arthritis, exercise is used to increase the muscle strength in the back and improve the range of motion in the spine. This can include walking, swimming, or resistance training. Some people benefit from working with a physical therapist to develop an exercise plan. During your physical therapy appointment, you’ll be guided through exercises that are specific to your needs. On top of that, you will be asked to do these exercises at home to continue your progress.

Effective exercises for spinal arthritis

Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Symptoms

One of the best ways to prevent or manage spinal arthritis pain is to make lifestyle changes that will make a positive impact. These changes will not only improve arthritis of the spine but your overall health as well. Here are the lifestyle changes you can make:

  • Avoid alcohol
  • Lose excess weight
  • Stop smoking
  • Consume an anti-inflammatory diet
    This includes eating plenty of vegetables, fruits, beans, and omega-3 fatty acids like salmon and flax.

Medications for Arthritis in the Back

While there are plenty of lifestyle changes and non-medical treatments for spinal arthritis medication can be a necessary addition to your arthritis treatment. Below we’ll cover the different medications you can take to help manage your back and neck pain.

Steroid Injections

Steroid injections use a powerful medication, called a corticosteroid, that is injected directly into the site experiencing pain. These medications provide pain relief and decrease inflammation. They are done in a doctor’s office and due to the side effects of the medication, you may only be able to receive it a limited number of times.

Oral Medications

Multiple oral medications can be used in the treatment of spinal arthritis. These treatment options will differ based upon the type of arthritis you have: osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.


Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are pain medications that not only reduce pain but decrease swelling. Examples of this drug class are naproxen (Aleve) and ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin). Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is another over-the-counter medication that also provides pain relief but does not have the same anti-inflammatory benefits as the other medications. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions about these drugs.


If your pain from spinal arthritis is severe your doctor may prescribe a mild pain killer or narcotic. These medications are known for their addictiveness and nasty side effects so your doctor will have to weigh the benefits against the risks.

For those who have rheumatoid arthritis, there are prescription medications called disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs). This class of drugs slow down or even stop your immune system from attacking your joints. Biologic response modifiers are another class of drugs that are used with DMARDs to alter your body’s immune response.

Surgery for Spinal Arthritis

When non-surgical treatments are not enough to treat spinal arthritis then it’s time to consider surgery. Your spine surgeon will review your medical history, order imaging tests, and determine the best type of surgery for your situation. There are two types of spine surgery they may perform a spinal decompression or spinal implant.

Spinal Decompression

A decompression involves decompressing the spinal cord and removing bone spurs which are overgrowths on the edges of the bones and when they occur on the facet joints they can compress nerves that are exiting the spine.   

Spinal Implants

Spinal arthritis can cause spinal instability which leads to joint pain. A spinal implant involves attaching a metal implant to the spine to keep space between the vertebrae. This will take the pressure off of the facet joint and reduce pain. 

Living with Spinal Arthritis

Spinal arthritis is one of many spinal conditions that can cause chronic pain. But with a solid treatment plan involving lifestyle changes, exercise, and bracing, the better you can manage painful symptoms. It’s important to work with your doctor throughout your illness to make sure you are incorporating all the right therapies. While you will never be able to cure your spinal arthritis, with the right treatments you will be able to live life to the fullest.


Neck & Back Arthritis Products


Patty Weasler, RN
Patty Weasler, RN

Patty Weasler is a freelance health writer and nurse. She is certified in critical care nursing and has been practicing for over 10 years. Patty lives in Milwaukee, WI with her husband and three children. She enjoys spending her time with family and educating people about their health.

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