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Back Pain

Osteoarthritis of the Back

Osteoarthritis is a condition affecting joints and in particular bones. This condition can be found anywhere in the body and usually affects those who are aged 50+. This is due to the natural degenerative process that comes with age, years of movement in the small joints in the back can cause inflammation and pain to arise.

Healthy Facet
Bony Osteophytes

In the spine we have joints known as facet joints. These facet joints connect one vertebra to the above vertebra and when movement of the spine occurs these facets joints have articulating faces that rub together smoothly to create the motion. When this smoothness of movement breaks due to years of degeneration the surfaces of these two facet joints become inflamed and pain is caused. Over a prolonged period of time the body tries to naturally replenish the lost cartilage but the product of that is bony osteophytes that inhibit movement further.


Symptoms related to arthritis in the back may include:

  • A sensation of pinching/tingling or numbness
  • Crunching/ grinding sounds
  • Localised tenderness
  • Loss of flexibility (inability to bend forwards to the floor)
  • Steady or intermittent pain described often as aching type pain aggravated by movement
  • Pain and stiffness that eases throughout the day but is worse in the evening
  • Sleep disturbance due to pain
  • Localised muscles spasm
  • Referred pain

Symptoms related to osteoarthritis in the back can vary from person to person, if you have any of the following symptoms you may need treatment for an underlying condition. If you experience the following you should contact your GP as soon as possible.

  • Have difficulty going to the toilet (feeling the need to go when you don’t)
  • Lost control of bladder and bowel (uncontrolled)
  • Having a feeling of numbness and tingling around the saddle area
  • Loss of power in the legs
  • Feeling unwell

Treatment options

In most cases OA of the spine is treated conservatively with the aim of relieving the symptoms felt in the area. This aim of the treatment is to increase the person’s ability to function pain free (the goal is having a pain free lifestyle). Initial treatment will be based around ensuring a healthy lifestyle, it also may include an exercise programme given to the patient to improve the following:

  • Increasing flexibility
  • Improve psychological aspects
  • Improve circulation
  • Reduce pain
  • Increase strength

Some exercises associate with OA treatment include walking and swimming. Exercises can be broken down into three sections.

Strengthening exercises
  • These exercises try to support the spine by building up small muscle groups that aid with stability. Usually this is with weight and or rubber bands.
Aerobic exercises
  • These are exercises that make the heart and the circulatory system stronger.
Range of motion exercises
  • These exercises are aimed at increasing the body’s flexibility to improve overall day to day movements (sit to stand and bending movements).


Looking for a physio in Kingston? Whether you need physio treatment following a sports injury or surgery, you want to improve your health and fitness or you woke up with a stiff neck this morning, we can help you safely and effectively. Call us today on 020 8546 6464 to start getting back on track. Our physiotherapists in Kingston work with you to make sure you get the best treatment and results as quickly as possible.

Strand House, 169 Richmond Rd, Kingston upon Thames KT2 5DA 020 8546 6464