Signs & Symptoms of Arthritis of the Spine

Updated February 21, 2017

Arthritis of the spine is a condition that develops slowly, and the symptoms can be a mild inconvenience at first. As time goes by and the condition is not treated, the symptoms will become increasingly worse and more evident. It is important to get tested by your doctor for arthritis of the spine as soon as you begin to feel any of these symptoms.


Over time the patient will experience stiffness in the spine that will slowly dissipate over the course of the day. The stiffness may occur when the patient gets out of bed in the morning, and be at its worst as the patient starts to move around at the beginning of the day. The stiffness could also occur after the patient has gone through strenuous physical activity. The patient may be able to relieve these symptoms with rest, or they may be able to perform stretching exercises or engage in limited light physical activity that would cause the pain to subside.


Sciatica is often used as a symptom of much more serious spinal problems, and arthritis in the spine is one of those problems. The patient may begin to experience a sharp pain that appears to originate in the pelvis or buttocks and runs down one or both of the legs. This pain is the result of the build-up in the bone material associated with arthritis starting to press on the sciatic nerve. The patient may also begin to notice a weakness or tingling sensation in the legs. This weakness may also appear in the arms along with the tingling sensation.

Neck Pain

If the arthritis begins pinching on nerves a little higher up in the spine, the patient may begin to experience tenderness and pain in the neck area. The pain could be realised when the neck area is touched, or it could start when the person looks straight up while in a seated position. This may also be accompanied by a numbness in the base of the neck.

Grinding Bone

As the arthritis develops it will start to create excess growths on the spinal bones, called bone spurs. One of the telltale signs that these bone spurs are forming is a crunching sound that can be heard, or a sensation of bone against bone, each time the patient tries to move his back. The patient will start to find it difficult to bend his back at all, and moving from side to side becomes painful and uncomfortable due to the grinding of bone on bone with the creation of bone spurs.


A symptom of arthritis of the spine that your doctor would be able to determine is a spinal deformity. This could be a deformity caused by the bone spurs created by the arthritis, or it could be the arthritis causing the spine to begin to curve, emulating the symptoms of scoliosis.

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About the Author

George N. Root III began writing professionally in 1985. His publishing credits include a weekly column in the "Lockport Union Sun and Journal" along with the "Spectrum," the "Niagara Falls Gazette," "Tonawanda News," "Watertown Daily News" and the "Buffalo News." Root has a Bachelor of Arts in English from the State University of New York, Buffalo.