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Osteoarthritis of the spine

One of the most common causes of severe back pain is osteoarthritis of the spine. Osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative disease that affects our joints as we get older, and is sometimes referred to as ‘wear and tear’ arthritis. By the time we are in our 70s, almost two-thirds of men and nearly half of women will have some evidence of OA of the spine.

OA can affect one or more joints, including the hands, hips, knees and spine. It causes pain and stiffness, and over a period of time, joints may appear larger or more ‘knobbly’ than they used to.

OA occurs when the body’s normal repair process creates more new bony deposits (osteophytes) than it needs. This can damage the cartilage between the joints, so instead of having a nice smooth surface on the bones, gliding easily on a cushion of cartilage, you have two rough surfaces that grate together. OA in the hips or in the joints of the spine can cause considerable pain, and may affect the ability of people who have OA to move around and cope with their usual daily activities.

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