Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Osteoarthritis Health Center

Select An Article

Spinal Osteoarthritis (Degenerative Arthritis of the Spine)

Font Size

What Is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is also known as degenerative joint disease. It is a condition in which the protective cartilage that cushions the tops of bones degenerates, or wears down. This causes swelling and pain. It may also cause the development of osteophytes, or bone spurs.

What Is Osteoarthritis of the Spine?

Osteoarthritis of the spine is a breakdown of the cartilage of the joints and discs in the neck and lower back.

Sometimes, osteoarthritis produces spurs that put pressure on the nerves leaving the spinal column. This can cause weakness and pain in the arms or legs.

Who Gets Osteoarthritis of the Spine?

In general, osteoarthritis happens as people get older. Younger people may get it from one of several different causes:

  • injury or trauma to a joint
  • a genetic defect involving cartilage


For people younger than age 45, osteoarthritis is more common among men. After age 45, osteoarthritis is more common among women. Osteoarthritis occurs more often among people who are overweight. It also occurs more frequently in those who have jobs or do sports that put repetitive stress on certain joints.

What Are the Symptoms of Osteoarthritis of the Spine?

Osteoarthritis of the spine may cause stiffness or pain in the neck or back. It may also cause weakness or numbness in the legs or arms if it is severe enough to affect spinal nerves or the spinal cord itself. Usually, the back discomfort is relieved when the person is lying down.

Some people experience little interference with the activities of their lives. Others become more severely disabled.

In addition to the physical effects, a person with osteoarthritis might also experience social and emotional problems. For instance, a person with osteoarthritis that hinders daily activities and job performance might feel depressed or helpless.

Next Article:

Today on WebMD

elderly hands
Even with arthritis pain.
woman exercising
Here are 7 easy tips.
acupuncture needles in woman's back
How it helps arthritis, migraines, and dental pain.
chronic pain
Get personalized tips to reduce discomfort.
Keep Joints Healthy
Chronic Pain Healthcheck
close up of man with gut
man knee support
woman with cold compress
Man doing tai chi
hand gripping green rubber ball
person walking with assistance