When one looks at arthritis in joints such as the knee, hip or ankle, it is very different than spinal arthritis. Treatment of spinal arthritis that is causing low back pain, mid back pain or neck pain is significantly tougher to treat than either hip or knee arthritis.
Here are the three main reasons why Arizona pain doctors struggle with it a bit more than extremities:
1. Spinal joints are smaller and there are a lot of them. Typically when a person has arthritis of spinal joints, they have the problem with several spinal joints. These spinal joints are called facet joints and are subjected to arthritis and loss of cartilage just like the hip and knee.
They are only about the size of a thumbnail, yet they have the potential to cause just as much pain on a scale from 1 to 10 as a painful arthritic knee. At every level of the spinal column, a facet joint exists on both sides of the spine. Considering there are over 20 levels in the spinal column, that means there over 40 chances of having an arthritic facet joint. the human body only has 2 knee joints and two hip joints, and two ankle joints. So when you do the math, the facet joints are much more probable to lead to a painful condition.
2. Spinal surgery for arthritis is not as successful as hip or knee replacements. Quality-of-life surveys after hip or knee replacement have shown those procedures to be in the top five worldwide for successful outcomes. Spinal surgery for arthritis is nowhere near the top five outcome procedures. At times it is a roll of the dice, and in others success rates hover around 75%. the success for an artificial disc replacement is equivalent to a spinal fusion procedure, and the success of a spinal fusion for degenerative scoliosis is usually between 75 and 85%.
There is no joint replacement that has been FDA approved for spinal facet joints. The only real surgical procedure available is a fusion for an arthritic facet joint, and that will then take away any movement at that level. The pressures and forces normally seen at that level will then go up or down, and the person may be subjected to adjacent level arthritis with the need for subsequent surgeries in the future.
3. The joints are smaller and difficult to get into for injections. Arizona pain management doctors perform spinal injections for arthritis all the time. Some of these injections involve putting steroid medication directly into the facet joint, and this may be very difficult since the joint is tiny and often overgrown with bone from arthritis.
The good news though is that often times procedures can be performed to alleviate the pain from spinal arthritis without actually having to put a needle into the joint. A medial branch block involves placing medication outside the joint to stop the transmission of pain from the surrounding nerve endings. A radiofrequency ablation is a procedure that can relieve pain from the same tiny nerve endings and can be effective for over a year.
These are the three main reasons why spinal arthritis is more difficult to treat than extremity arthritis. However, nonoperative treatment can be very successful if done with experienced and competent pain management doctors in Arizona.
The Arizona pain doctors at Arizona Pain Specialists are award-winning and Board-Certified. They are experts in the nonsurgical treatment of spinal arthritis, and utilize comprehensive treatment options such as medication management, injections, radiofrequency ablation, along with Scottsdale chiropractor treatment, spinal decompression therapy and physical rehabilitation.
The success rate at Arizona Pain Specialists for the nonoperative treatment of spinal arthritis is over 90%. Call today at 602-507-6550 for more information and scheduling.