Arthritis Back Pain | Symptoms | MedStar Health

Arthritis is a serious disease that causes the gradual wearing of cartilage in your bones. When arthritis affects the back, it can be painful and even debilitating when left untreated. Our experienced physicians provide high-quality diagnostic testing and treatment options for arthritic back pain. This often includes physical therapy and other conservative treatment options but may require advanced spinal surgery in some cases. Our team performs thousands of surgeries each year, and we pride ourselves on offering the least invasive options to allow our patients to recover quickly from surgery and return to their pain-free lives faster. Our specialists will always encourage non-surgical options when possible and recommend surgery only when needed.

What causes arthritic back pain?

It is a symptom of multiple types of arthritis and related conditions, which can affect both women and men of any age. The following forms of spinal arthritis can cause back pain and discomfort:

  • Osteoarthritis of the back

  • Rheumatoid arthritis of the back

  • Lumbar stenosis

How is arthritic back pain diagnosed?

If you experience back pain that is severe or recurring, it is important to speak with a specialist. We are home to experts in a wide range of neck and spinal conditions who have years of experience evaluating, diagnosing, and treating arthritis. Your initial exam with one of our physicians will likely include the following:

  • Medical history evaluation : Your physician will discuss your medical history with you and any relevant prior health problems
  • Physical exam : Your doctor will evaluate the affected area and may ask you questions about where you are feeling pain or discomfort or when the pain first began
  • Imaging tests : Your orthopedist will also likely conduct imaging studies to rule out bone fractures and accurately diagnose your back condition


If you are experiencing back pain due to arthritis that is mild, one or more of the following conservative treatment options may be recommended to avoid the need for back surgery:

  • Pain medications

  • Anti-inflammatory medications to reduce swelling

  • Physical therapy

  • Exercise therapy

If conservative treatments for arthritis back pain are unsuccessful or if your condition is severe or recurring, our physicians may recommend one of the following treatment options: