What is Osteoarthritis of the Thoracic and Lumbar Spine (Spondylarthritis; Spondylarthrosis; Spondylosis)?

Osteoarthritis of the thoracic or lumbar intervertebral joints is found very commonly in those used to heavy work, but it is not necessarily accompanied by symptoms.
Degenerative
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What are the causes of Osteoarthritis of the Thoracic and Lumbar Spine (Spondylarthritis; Spondylarthrosis; Spondylosis)?

Predisposing factors are:

  • 1. Previous injury to the spinal joints
  • 2. Previous disease involving the joints (for example, scheuermann’s kyphosis or an
    intervertebral disc lesion).

As in other joints the cause of degeneration is unknown, but may be the manifestation of an ageing process in the cartilage tissue.

What are the clinical features of Osteoarthritis of the Thoracic and Lumbar Spine (Spondylarthritis; Spondylarthrosis; Spondylosis)?

Spinal osteoarthritis can exist in quite marked degree without causing symptoms. But there is often a complaint of aching pain in the affected area, worse on activity or after prolonged standing or sitting in one position, and especially after stooping or lifting. Pain is often worse first thing in the morning, and there may be a feeling of stiffness when rising from a sitting position. In the lumbar region there is a tendency to acute exacerbations of pain, usually arising suddenly and lasting a few weeks. These are possibly explained by strain or momentary subluxation of an unstable degenerate joint. Interference with a nerve in a narrowed intervertebral foramen leads to radiating pain in the distribution of the affected nerve.

On examination in the quiet phase, the objective findings are slight. Spinal movements may be moderately restricted, especially flexion; but there is no muscle spasm. If there is interference with a lumbar nerve root straight leg raising on the affected side is likely to be restricted. Apart from this, objective neurological signs are exceptional. During an acute exacerbation of pain there may be marked impairment of spinal movements, with muscle spasm.