"Arthritis" describes many different diseases that cause tenderness, pain, swelling, and joint stiffness. With osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, the cartilage around the joint wears out, causing the bones in the joint to rub together, creating inflammation and pain. Most forms of arthritis can occur in any joint, including spine joints. Osteoarthritis of the spine can lead to lost flexibility, bone spurs (osteophytes), irritated nerves, spinal stenosis, and sciatica. The terms spondylosis or degenerative joint disease are used interchangeably with osteoarthritis.

Surgery for osteoarthritis may be needed in severe cases, and may include spinal fusion, decompression and/or laminectomy.

Osteoarthritis is characterized primarily by stiffness and pain in the joints, although not everyone with osteoarthritis actually experiences pain and disability. The stiffness and pain tend to be worse in the morning.

Learn about treatment options for bone spurs (osteophytes) and back pain, including non-surgical treatments and spine surgery.

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