Vertebral Arthrosis

By | June 10, 2022

Vertebral joint arthrosis is a wear and tear disease of the spine. The disease, also known as facet syndrome, affects the articular processes (“facets”) on each vertebra that connect the vertebrae with one another.

What is vertebral arthrosis?

Vertebral arthrosis is characterized by wear and tear on the small vertebral joints. Since the articular processes have nerve fiber endings that absorb pain stimuli and transmit them to the central nervous system (pain receptors), back pain can occur in vertebral arthrosis. For definitions of hip arthrosis, please visit

However, not every vertebral arthrosis leads to pain. Although facet syndrome can affect the entire spine, in many cases the condition occurs in the lower lumbar spine. Since it is a wear-and-tear disease, vertebral joint arthrosis is particularly common and noticeable with particularly strong symptoms in old age.

A combination of arthrosis in the vertebral joints with a degenerative change in the intervertebral discs or with what is known as spondylolisthesis (sliding vertebrae) is also possible, in which the vertebrae move against one another. Vertebral joint arthrosis can also lead to a narrowing of the spinal canal (spinal cord canal).


Arthrosis of the vertebral joints is a wear and tear disease of the spine caused by the aging process. The intervertebral discs, which are made of cartilage fibers and connect the individual vertebrae, lose fluid with increasing age, so that their height gradually decreases.

With the reduced distance between the vertebral bodies, the vertebral ligaments lose strength, so that the individual vertebrae can shift and thus the position of the vertebral joints is changed. The resulting overloading of the vertebral joints leads to accelerated wear and tear of the cartilage, which is the basis of vertebral arthrosis.

In particular, excessive strain on the spine during work (frequent bending over and heavy lifting) or during sport contributes to vertebral arthrosis, as does obesity and, in some cases, a rheumatic disease. Herniated discs also lead to a disruption in the interaction between the vertebral bodies, vertebral joint and ligaments, which can ultimately trigger vertebral arthrosis.

Typical Symptoms & Signs

  • Back pain, especially with physical exercise
  • Vertebral slippage (spondylolisthesis)
  • Movement restrictions of the spine
  • emotional disturbances

Diagnosis & History

The various symptoms of vertebral arthrosis cannot always be clearly assigned to a spinal disease, but can also be signs of other diseases.

However, X-rays also show pathological changes in the vertebral articular processes in people who do not feel any symptoms of the disease. Sensitive symptoms often only appear if the muscles in the trunk are not sufficiently developed.

Arthrosis of the vertebral joints often leads to extensive, non-local lumbar vertebral pain. Pain often increases during the day and after physical exertion. Furthermore, the pain increases when the upper body is bent backwards, while there is a reduction in pain when lying down. Radiating pain to the legs, lower abdomen, groin, or buttocks can also be a sign of vertebral arthrosis.

Imaging procedures such as an X-ray examination, computer tomography or magnetic resonance imaging can be used to show changes in the bony structures, but also in the spinal canal and spinal cord nerves, and to diagnose vertebral arthrosis.


First and foremost, those affected with vertebral arthrosis suffer from very severe pain in the back area. This pain often spreads to the neighboring regions of the body, so that pain can also occur in the pelvis or neck. These occur not only during movement, but often also at rest, which can be associated with sleep disorders.

This can lead to depression or irritability in the long term. Restrictions in movement and in everyday life can also occur due to illness. The patient’s quality of life is significantly reduced by the disease. Paralysis or sensory disturbances can also occur.

If these are not treated, they can also occur permanently. Due to the numbness, some of those affected are also dependent on the help of other people in their everyday life and cannot easily carry out many activities on their own. The treatment of vertebral arthrosis is usually carried out using various therapies and exercises, whereby massages can also alleviate the symptoms. There are no complications. The life expectancy of the patient is not negatively influenced by the vertebral arthrosis.

When should you go to the doctor?

A doctor is needed as soon as impairments in movement processes or irregularities in mobility become apparent. If the person concerned suffers from pain in the back area, this is a sign of a health problem. If the symptoms occur after intense physical activity, you should get enough rest and rest. If there is significant relief or freedom from symptoms within a few minutes, hours or after a restful night’s sleep, in most cases a doctor is not required.

However, if the limitations or pain persist or increase in intensity, the cause should be clarified. A warning signal and characteristic of the disease is a gradual increase in the symptoms described. Over several weeks or months, the state of health deteriorates, you feel unwell or your physical performance decreases. A doctor must be consulted so that a diagnosis can be made and a treatment plan can be developed. Sensory disturbances or irregularities in sensitivity should also be examined and treated.

If everyday obligations or usual sporting activities can no longer be carried out, the help and support of a doctor is recommended. If existing complaints radiate to the hip or leg area, there is a need for action. To avoid long-term damage or secondary diseases, a doctor should be consulted.

Treatment & Therapy

The treatment of vertebral arthrosis depends on the symptoms, in particular the extent of the pain from which the patient is suffering. Since the joint wear and tear cannot be reversed, the treatment of the pain and the restoration of the functionality of the spine are the main focus of the treatment. The mildest suitable treatment method is used.

Arthrosis of the vertebral joints is therefore usually treated conservatively, ie without an operation. Normally, an operation is only carried out in the event of serious symptoms and numbness.

Conservative therapies include B. physiotherapeutic measures such as gymnastics and massage. Physiotherapy exercises serve to build up back and abdominal muscles so that the spine is relieved and strengthened as much as possible. Hydrotherapy, in which water is used to treat complaints, relies primarily on the temperature stimulus and also on the buoyancy and pressure forces of the water.

In electrotherapy, a finely dosed electrical current is passed through the patient’s body. Relaxation exercises can also be helpful. Since physical exercise is one of the most important therapeutic measures for arthrosis in the vertebral joints, regular participation in sports such as e.g. For example, cycling, Nordic walking or backstroke swimming are particularly important, as these forms of activity are gentle on the back and have a stabilizing effect on the back.

In the case of acute, particularly severe symptoms, painkillers can help temporarily. In individual cases, wearing a corset can help to stabilize the spine, but permanent use of the corset will tend to weaken the muscles.

The next stronger step in pain therapy for arthrosis of the vertebral joint is the so-called facet blockade or facet joint infiltration, in which the vertebral joint causing the pain is punctured and painkillers are injected into the joint area. A minor surgical intervention is carried out for the radio frequency lesion, in which the nerves located at the vertebral joint are made insensitive under local anesthesia.

The spinal cord canal can also be expanded surgically in order to take pressure off the nerve tracts. With a spondylodesis (blockage of vertebral bodies), vertebral bodies are stiffened in order to stabilize the spine. Vertebral bodies are fitted with screws that are firmly connected to one another by means of metal plates or rods in order to prevent painful movements of the vertebral joints in the case of vertebral arthrosis.


Compensatory sports such as running (especially Nordic walking) and swimming as well as gymnastics to stabilize the spine are suitable measures to prevent vertebral arthrosis. But even if you already have osteoarthritis of the spine, regular exercise helps to strengthen the muscles around the spine and thus prevent or at least inhibit further progression of the osteoarthritis of the spine.


Vertebral arthrosis is caused by wear and tear on the vertebral bodies. The bone tissue breaks down as a result of this wear and tear. The disease is progressive and mostly affects older people. Due to its chronic nature, vertebral arthrosis must be treated afterward. The aim is to alleviate the symptoms and improve the patient’s quality of life.

Overexertion, an already existing misalignment of the spine or rheumatic diseases are among the risk factors. During follow-up care, the orthopedist treats existing complaints. This can reduce or even prevent vertebral arthrosis.

Early treatment initiation is crucial for a favorable outcome. The person concerned must ensure that the spine is sufficiently protected. Painkillers curb the symptoms, and physiotherapy exercises also help to alleviate them.

Regular follow-up care can reduce vertebral wear. The specialist adapts the treatment to the individual course of the disease. If unexpected signs of paralysis, numbness or similar neurological symptoms occur, an immediate doctor’s visit is necessary.

In severe cases, the doctor will consider surgery. Depending on the severity of the arthrosis, there are different approaches, such as nerve sclerotherapy through heat or the use of artificial vertebrae. Surgical spinal fusion is another option. During aftercare, the healing process is monitored by a doctor.

You can do that yourself

If the symptoms are severe, medical treatment of the vertebral arthrosis is essential. In addition to his recommendations, however, the patient can do a lot to alleviate his pain and limited mobility, even if age-related wear and tear is not reversible.

On the one hand, the patient can reduce any excess weight. It doesn’t matter which diet he decides to follow, because studies have shown that all diets are similarly successful if they are really followed through. A stimulation current therapy, also called electro or TENS therapy, can also relieve the pain and has no side effects. For this purpose, two to four electrodes are attached to the painful areas of the body, through which the stimulation current is then passed. Since only 80 to 120 Hertz are used, there is only a gentle tingling sensation on the skin, which can mask the pain. The body now releases endorphins, which attach to the pain receptors. With regular use, pain can be relieved through this mechanism.

Orthomolecular medicine also recommends a high daily dose of enzymes for osteoarthritis of the spine. With enzyme therapy lasting several weeks, inflammation and swelling can be reduced over the long term, which at the same time relieves pain and promotes mobility. Massages and relaxation exercises can also help to minimize the symptoms of spinal arthrosis. Progressive muscle relaxation according to Jacobson is recommended here, as are Reiki, yoga and Pilates.

Vertebral Arthrosis