Best Exercises for Spinal Arthritis. 

 August 17, 2022

By  Linda Rook

Stiffness in the back


The spine runs from the base of your skull to the top of the facet joint.  The job of the spine is to keep us upright and is attached to other parts of the body.

When you develop spine osteoarthritis or facet arthritis, the osteoarthritis or OA is related to wear and tear of the joints.  therefore, it is common in older people, and the symptoms can cause pain, inflammation and stiffness. 

The symptoms seem to progress gradually overtime, so when you know what to look for you are able to treat it early before progressing to osteoarthritis.

The Spine

What is The Spine.

The spine has 33 vertebras that lie on top of each other and is separated by a disc. The disc acts as a cushion and shock absorbers.

At the back of each vertebra, there are four projections, two upper and two lower, which is called the articular process.

The articular process links two vertebrae and is located above and below.

These joints are called facet joints.

The Facet Joint.

The facet joint stabilises the spine and helps the neck and back to move by bending and twisting.

Your facet joint is also a synovial joint where a membrane compresses each facet joint, the synovial is a slippery fluid that keeps your joints lubricated.

You have these synovial joints in other parts of your body, including the shoulders, elbows, knees, knuckles and hips.

Eventually, these cartilages surrounding your facet joints will get thin or disappear altogether. When this happens, all you hear is scrapping, cracking noises where the bone is rubbing on bone when you move.

The daily wear and tear have other factors such as a previous injury to the joint or hereditary.

When the protective layer or the cartilage is gone, then the joint you may feel could be.

  • The bone surface could rub against one another, which could cause inflammation and friction.
  • The inflammation then leads to the joints' soft tissues producing less fluid.
  • The friction of no fluid could cause the vertebra bones to create bone spurs or enlarge joints.
  • The absence of fluid could even cause more friction and lead to more bone and soft tissue changes.
Inflammation of the facet joint

Spinal Osteoarthritis. 

Osteoarthritis in the spine has many names, such as:

  • Facet joint arthritis.
  • Facet joint syndrome.
  • Facet arthropathy.
  • Z joint arthritis.

It could also be named that describes the general change in the spine:

  • Facet joint disorder or
  • Spondylosis.

Spinal or facet joint arthritis is common with ageing as osteoarthritis is wearing away joints. The symptoms of facet joint arthritis are inflammation of the spine, which is the breaking down of the cartilage around the facet joint. When it becomes impaired, the vertebrae of the spine develop osteophytes or bone spurs.

When you get spinal osteoarthritis, the symptoms may develop slowly over time. The symptoms can come and go or be constant. Spinal osteoarthritis can cause radiating pain like a headache, which may cause osteoarthritis in your neck or make your feet tingle from the facet joints.

Spinal osteoarthritis is also related to other conditions like degenerative disc disease or spinal stenosis.

Elderly Gent with walking stick

How does Spine Osteoarthritis cause chronic pain?

The cartilage has no nerves, so they are not the cause of your pain. In addition, bone spurs are a sign of ageing, so these are not a cause of concern.

The spine osteoarthritis leads to pain because of the following:

  • Where the facet joint is rubbing can lead to inflammation that causes the pain.
  • You may have muscle spasms due to a reaction to osteoarthritic changes. The muscle spasms could lead to pain, stiffness and decreased function.
  • You may have muscle spasms due to a reaction to osteoarthritic changes. The muscle spasms could lead to pain, stiffness and decreased function.
  • Other changes, like a synovial cyst, could form close to the facet joint capsule. The synovial cysts are abnormal benign fluid sacs and can cause pain in the nerve roots.

But everyone is different, and research has found that some people do not experience pain.

Serious Spine Osteoarthritis.

When your spine osteoarthritis becomes severe, you will begin to have degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, or even both. These diseases then lead to a compression of the spinal cord or the nerve roots, causing:

Numb Hands
  • Unbearable lower back and/or neck pain will prevent you from doing your daily activities and sleepless nights.
  • Agonising sharp, shooting burning pain which could be in the arms or legs.
  • Or weakness in the legs or arms.
  • You could have tingling or numbness in the hands or feet.
  • Or could lose control of your bowel or bladder. If you have this symptom and one or more other signs, it could indicate a rare medical emergency called cauda equina syndrome. With this, you must get medical help immediately.

The symptoms of spinal osteoarthritis.

The symptoms that you could suffer are pain and stiffness in the back, which progress slowly. But, knowing the signs, you can treat them early and slow down the disease.

Pain in the neck and back.

You can develop arthritis in the neck or/and spine. There are two places where you could develop this disease they are:

Arthritis in the lumbar spine. The lumbar region is your lower back; it can also be a pain in the buttocks, groin and at the back of your thigh. The pain can also occur in the calf of the leg and foot.

Pain in neck.

Arthritis in the cervical spine. You may have pain in the neck, right across the upper back, shoulder to shoulder, and in the middle of your back and going to your arms, hands and fingers.

You may experience the pain as a dull ache, but sometimes it may become intense pain. The pain will worsen after activities like heavy lifting or extreme jogging.

Other symptoms.

Other symptoms and signs could be the spine becoming swollen in the facet joint, making your spine stiff and, later, less mobile, the stiffness may come after you have sat or laid down or slept for a while.

Self-help and exercises.

Facet osteoarthritis is a disease that, unfortunately, cannot be cured, but there are some steps that you can do at home to ease the pain and improve the function of your spine.

It's best to go and see your doctor or physical therapist for the best exercise for you. Physiotherapy can give you a plan of action that will be safe.


The exercises you should be doing are Strengthening and stretching your back. This is vital to treat spinal osteoarthritis.    The back and neck muscles support your spine, which eases pressure on the vertebral discs and facet joints.  So, the exercises you should do is your neck as well as your back.

Arthritis in the Neck

Neck exercises.

As the neck supports the back, you should strengthen the muscle exercises, reducing stress. You could use exercise bands or weight machines but at the lowest possible.

Low Aerobic Exercises.

Doing low-impact aerobics will help your lungs, heart and respiratory system be healthy, as well as lower your weight. These could be walking, exercise bikes or swimming is perfect as you are weightless under the water—for instance, therapy pools.

aerobic exercises
Yoga - Stretching

Range of Motions Exercises.

This type of exercise is mainly for the back joints, relieving the stiffness and helping with normal joint motion. The exercises include gently stretching sideways, backwards and forwards. Doing some gentle yoga may help too.

Weight loss.

Losing weight will also help if you are overweight or obese. Excess pounds will put pressure on your facet joints. If you are obese, you are five times more likely to get osteoarthritis in the lumbar spine region.

Need to lose weight

When you need rest.

When you have back pain, you could have a little discomfort in your back as your stiff joints begin to loosen up. But severe back pain indicates that your spine and surrounding muscles need rest.

People that have low back pain could benefit from laying on the bed curled up on their side for a few hours; this takes the pressure away from the facet joint.

heat packs

Cold and heat packs.

You could use an ice pack on your swollen spine for 15 or 20 minutes. Or you could use a heat pack for the pain and stiffness.

Changing your activities.

You should do activities each day, but some types may aggravate the painful back and must be avoided, some of the activities could be.

  • Heavy lifting, which includes carrying bags that are heavy or backpacks, can worsen the back and neck.
  • If you have lumbar spine osteoarthritis, you should stop bending or twisting at the waist.
  • If you have cervical spine osteoarthritis, you should not put extra pressure on the neck or head. For example, doing yoga classes or doing a headstand.
  • It would help if you considered avoiding long sitting at your desk or in a car, as this could be painful and stiff in the back and neck.


Osteoarthritis is wearing away of the joint and is common in older people.  The symptoms are inflammation, pain and stiffness.  Spinal osteoarthritis is a breakdown of the cartilage in the bottom part of the spine, facet arthritis.

Spinal osteoarthritis or facet joint arthritis is a debilitation disease that can not be cured.  But you can do some self help to keep the pain and stiffness at bay.  Such as stretching, going for walks or swimming is the best, as you are weightless in the water, therefore you are able to move easier.

I hope this article has helped you.  Please subscribe to my website, and I will keep you updated on new blogs.  Also, if you need to know anything about arthritis, please go to my contact page and leave a message, and I will get back to you.

In the meantime, if this post is informative, I’d be very grateful if you’d help your friends or family if they have a similar condition to tell them.  So please share it on Twitter or Facebook or send them an email.

Linda Rook

Linda is now retired and has suffered from Osteoarthritis for about 40+ years.  She struggled with her weight until she found the correct one that also helped with her arthritic pain.  Linda was in terrible pain until the physician thought her right hip needed replacement. 

Now Linda has an artificial right hip, which has left her with the left leg shorter than the right.  Therefore, her spine is now wonky, and has arthritis of the lower back, also it seems to be going all over the body, her pain is now in the knees, elbow, wrist, fingers and both hips.

Linda now spends her days writing information to help others with the same conditions, so they do not suffer like Linda.

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Natural Ways To Decrease Inflammation.

What Supplements Are Good For Arthritis?

Coping With Pregnancy and Chronic Illness.

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