Experiencing Back Pain? When It Might Be Arthritis

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Approximately 80% of back pain is acute and lasts one to seven days. Otherwise, it is classified as chronic and might be caused by arthritis. The most prevalent location for arthritic back pain is the lower back. Spondylarthropathies are a collection of disorders that include several kinds of arthritis (meaning spinal arthritis). Adults and children can be affected by spondyloarthropathies.

If you experience back pain, swelling, or stiffness, you may have one of the following forms of arthritis or associated disorders.

  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Psoriatic arthritis
  • Reactive arthritis
  • Spondyloarthritis

These conditions usually involve inflammation of the spine and the joints between the spine and the pelvis (sacroiliac joints). Spondyloarthropathies can affect different areas of the body. For example, ankylosing spondylitis is a form of spondyloarthropathy that affects the spine. Psoriatic arthritis is a form that affects the joints and tendons, as well as the skin and nails.

Back pain can vary from mild to severe and can come on suddenly or gradually. It may be accompanied by localized discomfort in the lower back, aching in the lower back muscles, hip pain, or pain down the legs.

Arthritis Back Pain: Diagnosis

The first step in diagnosing arthritis back pain is to have a complete medical history and physical examination. Your doctor will ask you questions about the type of pain, the duration of symptoms, other medical problems you have, medications and allergies you have, and any recent injuries or infections. The examination will focus on areas of the body that may be causing the pain. Your doctor may also order some tests to determine the cause of your pain.

Arthritis Back Pain: Treatment

Most people with arthritis back pain can be treated with a combination of exercise and medication. Exercise, including stretching and strengthening, is the most effective treatment for arthritis back pain. Chronic pain may require physical therapy and/or occupational therapy to help you return to your normal activities.


Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers: Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is the first medication you should try for arthritis back pain. If you can’t tolerate acetaminophen, or if it does not help your pain, try nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve).

Corticosteroids: Corticosteroids are used to reduce inflammation and can be taken orally or injected into the spine.

Narcotics: Narcotics are used to relieve severe pain and are often used in combination with other pain relievers. Narcotics can be addictive, so they are usually used only for short periods.

Antidepressants: Tricyclic antidepressants, such as amitriptyline, are often used to treat chronic pain, although their exact mechanism of action is unknown.

Anesthetics: Local anesthetics, such as lidocaine, may be injected into the spine to relieve pain from nerve compression.

Topical treatments: Topical treatments, such as creams and ointments, are applied to the skin and are sometimes used to relieve arthritis back pain.

Alternative therapies

Acupuncture: Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese therapy in which fine needles are inserted into the skin at specific points to relieve pain.

Chiropractic: Chiropractic is a therapy that focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system, with special emphasis on the spine.

Massage: Massage is a general category of techniques that manipulate the soft tissues of the body. The purpose of massage is generally for the treatment of body stress or pain.


If you are experiencing back pain, it is important to consult with a doctor to rule out arthritis. Arthritis is a common condition that can cause serious pain and disability. Early diagnosis and treatment are important to prevent the condition from worsening.

We can assist you if you’re looking for an arthritis doctor in New Jersey. At the Center for Arthritis and Osteoporosis, Dr. Adenwalla and her team use the best treatment methods and diagnostic tools to manage the disease. We recognize that having Arthritis or an autoimmune condition can be tremendously distressing. Contact us today to learn more or to schedule an appointment!

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