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Osteoarthritis and Back Pain: What You Need To Know

Osteoarthritis and Back Pain: What You Need To Know

Award-winning physician John S. Michels, MD, is well-known for the highly effective, minimally invasive pain management therapies he offers at his busy practice in the Dallas-Fort Worth area of Texas.

Dr. Michels is also a former NFL Super Bowl champion who suffered a career-ending injury. That experience prompted his decision to specialize in pain management and gives him a unique perspective on the disabling effects of chronic pain.

Read what Dr. Michels says about osteoarthritis, its relationship to back pain, and the treatments available to prevent it from controlling your life.

What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis occurs when cartilage in your joints breaks down or degrades over time.

Cartilage is the flexible connective tissue that covers and cushions the ends of bones within joints, allowing for pain-free, frictionless movement.

Usually linked to wear-and-tear associated with aging or repeated stress on joints during various athletic or work activities, osteoarthritis causes varying degrees of inflammation, stiffness, and pain in the affected joints.

It’s a progressive disease that can eventually lead to chronic pain and significant disability.

How is osteoarthritis associated with back pain?

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of spinal arthritis and occurs most frequently in the neck and lower back.

Your spine includes a column of vertically stacked bones known as vertebrae. The vertebrae are joined together by pairs of small facet joints. These hinge-type joints provide limited range of motion in the spine and, like other joints, are vulnerable to arthritis (also known as facet joint syndrome).

Back and neck pain related to osteoarthritis may be the result of:

Sometimes degenerative disc disease — which causes the cushioning discs between vertebrae to thin — places increased pressure on facet joints and worsens the effects of osteoarthritis.

How do you treat spinal osteoarthritis?

Dr. Michels customizes your treatment based on a thorough evaluation to diagnose what’s causing your pain.

His treatment goals for spinal osteoarthritis include relieving your discomfort, improving mobility, and preventing further joint deterioration whenever possible.

Your plan may include physical therapy, oral anti-inflammatory medications to relieve inflammation and discomfort, and treatments for conditions such as herniated discs that may be contributing to your symptoms.

For long-term pain relief of facet arthritis, he may also recommend injection-based therapy such as:

Facet joint medial branch block nerve blocks

During this procedure, Dr. Michels injects pain-numbing medication around the affected medial branch nerves to block pain signals to the brain, alleviating pain and improving function.

Facet joint intra-articular injection

This injection delivers an anti-inflammatory medication (steroid) and anesthetic into the joint capsule to relieve pain, decrease inflammation, and improve spinal mobility.

Radiofrequency neurotomy/ablation of the facet joint

During this minimally invasive procedure, also called a rhizotomy, Dr. Michels uses heat from radio waves to treat painful facet joint osteoarthritis that hasn’t responded to other therapies.

The heat from RF rhizotomy creates a lesion on the nerve that effectively blocks pain signals for months to years. Dr. Michels then recommends physical therapy to strengthen the back and neck to protect the joints. The nerve eventually does grow back. However, if the pain returns, radiofrequency ablation is repeatable as necessary.

Don’t accept neck or back pain as part of the aging process. Instead, schedule an evaluation with Dr. Michels today by calling his office or requesting an appointment online.

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