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5 Symptoms of Elderly Arthritis in the Back

Article by Daniel Westhead Daniel Westhead Sure Safe Alarms

Many senior citizens have experienced some kind of back pain. This is largely down to our increasingly sedentary lifestyles. We spend more time hunched over phones, computers and steering wheels and less moving our bodies!

However, non-specific spinal pain is often easy to cure with gentle exercise and physiotherapy. In this article, we're discussing something much more specific – arthritis in the back. Keep reading as we explain everything you need to know about this condition, including symptoms and treatments.

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is an umbrella term encompassing any disease that causes joint pain and inflammation. The NHS predicts over 10 million Britons live with the condition, with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis being the most prevalent. Who's most at risk? Older adults over 40, especially women, and the elderly. Common causes include:

  • Hormone changes in menopause
  • General wear and tear
  • Previous injury
  • Obesity and diet
  • Family history

Luckily, most people live pain-free, independent lives with back arthritis, thanks to effective treatment plans, at-home help and safety pendants with 24/7 monitoring.

What is the most common type of elderly arthritis to affect the spine?

So, what types of arthritis affect the spine? Osteoarthritis is the most common. Osteoarthritis in the back is specifically called spondylosis.

The spine is full of tiny joints susceptible to deterioration – around 364, to be precise. There are 33 vertebrae separated by spongy disks, each with four posterior joint surfaces connecting one to the other. Plus, supporting structures that link the vertebrae to the ribs, sacrum and skull.

Spondylosis impacts every single one of these. Over a lifetime, cartilage breaks down, and the cushioning pads become less effective. Without well-oiled parts, elderly patients experience pain, grinding and limited mobility.

The second most common form of arthritis in the back is rheumatoid arthritis. Unlike spondylosis, it's not caused by general wear and tear. Instead, it's a nasty autoimmune disease where the immune system accidentally attacks healthy cells, causing severe inflammation.

Common back arthritis symptoms

Suspect you or a loved one might have arthritis in the back? The first step is keeping a note of your symptoms. This will help you and your doctor differentiate between non-specific spinal pain and a more serious condition, like spondylosis. Watch out for the following red flags:

  • Back, neck and hip pain
  • Stiffness and loss of flexibility
  • Numb arms and legs
  • Full-body weakness and lethargy
  • Mood disorders

Back, neck and hip pain

The very first back arthritis symptom is noticeable pain in the spine, neck and hips. With noninflammatory or degenerative arthritis, this usually occurs when you bend or twist. You might feel an electric-shock-type sensation if you move too quickly or burning that intensifies after long periods of inactivity.

On top of this, spinal arthritis may cause bone spurs – little lumps that form on the end of bones, where cartilage is meant to be. While not always noticeable, they can eventually compress the spinal cord and irritate nerve roots, triggering two painful conditions – spinal stenosis and radiculopathy (which includes sciatica).

Stiffness and loss of flexibility

Without the lubricating fluid between joints, bones and discs can't smoothly glide over one another. Alongside a crunchy, grinding sound when you move, you might notice stiffness and loss of mobility.

Of course, this can make everyday tasks more challenging, and you might be worried about accessing help in an emergency. Luckily, safety alarms with fall detection give you extra peace of mind. If your arthritis flares up and you have a stumble, your device will immediately contact a SureSafe operator, family member or friend.

Numb arms and legs

Let's revisit spinal stenosis – a condition where the passage around the spinal cord narrows and compresses surrounding nerves, usually caused by bone spurs.

Alongside triggering sciatica and radiating pain, you might notice numbness in your arms and legs. Consequently, it becomes harder to grip objects and control fine motor movements.

If your back arthritis has progressed to this stage, you could be entitled to financial support. People over the state pension age may qualify for Attendance Allowance. People under the state pension age should research Personal Independence Payment and Employment and Support Allowance instead.

Full-body weakness and lethargy

While noninflammatory and degenerative arthritis often causes pain confined to one area, autoimmune arthritis triggers full-body weakness and lethargy. The immune system doesn't know the difference between your head, spine and feet, so it'll send antibodies indiscriminately.

As well as this, patients report tiredness, weight loss and insomnia. How did you feel the last time you were poorly? Basically, rheumatoid arthritis provokes a similar immune response, but it doesn't ease up with over-the-counter medication or rest.

Mood disorders

Understandably, living with lower back arthritis symptoms can be distressing. Many people feel isolated and alone because they can't get out as easily as before. Some develop serious mood-related disorders, like anxiety and depression.

If this sounds familiar, contact your GP. They'll help you manage the worst of your symptoms and suggest complementary therapies, such as counselling, physiotherapy and acupuncture. You could also ask about back arthritis support groups in your area.

What is the treatment for arthritis in the back?

Is there a cure for arthritis symptoms in the back? Unfortunately, most forms are degenerative, so there's no way to reverse the damage. Nevertheless, your healthcare provider can help you manage pain through several innovative treatments, including medication, surgery and therapy.

One of the most popular short-term treatments includes corticosteroid injections. These anti-inflammatory medicines temporarily reduce swelling and pain. The medication is usually injected straight into the joint once every three months or more.

Improve your quality of life with a SureSafe Alarm

Living confidently and independently with elderly back arthritis is possible with the right support. As well as enlisting help from healthcare professionals, personal safety pendants remove the stress from everyday chores.

We have countless models to browse to suit every situation and budget, with innovative features like fall detection, dementia tracking and 24/7 monitoring.

If you have any questions, please contact our friendly team today on 0808 109 4093, request a call back or use our live chat.

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