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How is Arthritis in the Spine Diagnosed?

Sometimes it can be difficult to track down the source of lower back pain. Many conditions have similar symptoms. Because of this, our doctors will go through a series of specific steps to determine the cause of your pain and the best course of treatment to find you relief.

There are around 100 types of arthritis, many of which can affect the spine. The most common two are osteoarthritis, which is a degenerative disease, and rheumatoid arthritis, which is autoimmune in nature. We work smoothly and thoroughly to ensure that you get a correct and useful diagnosis. Diagnosis is accomplished in a few steps:

Assessing Your Medical History

Your personal and family medical history can provide a great deal of insight into the cause of your back pain. Researchers have learned that osteoarthritis is more common in people who have a family history of arthritis. It is also more common in women than in men. People whose jobs include physical labor or long periods of standing are more prone to arthritis.

Going Over Your Symptoms

Your doctor will ask about the symptoms that you have been experiencing and for how long. Common symptoms of arthritis in the spine include:

  • Pain. Often, arthritis pain will settle in the hips and lower back. In some cases, radiating pain will move into the thighs and down the legs.
  • Stiffness. This is usually worse in the morning and eases up after a couple of hours. Stiffness can return after heavy exertion.
  • Swelling and heat.
  • Tenderness. This can be felt on the skin over an affected area.

Performing a Physical Exam

Your doctor will have you move to examine your range of movement and which movements cause pain. He or she may palpitate an area or apply pressure to see what is most likely to cause you pain.

Blood Tests

A blood test may be able to help identify what type of arthritis you have. People who have rheumatoid arthritis will typically have antibodies in their blood called rheumatoid factors. However, rheumatoid factors may show up in other disorders as well. Because of this, other tests like full blood counts may also be performed.


An X-ray can help your doctor learn more about the condition of your joints. X-rays can reveal whether there has been a loss of cartilage and whether bone spurs are present. In cases of severe osteoarthritis, an X-ray may show that you have bone rubbing against bone.

Joint Fluid Aspiration

If your doctor has a reason to suspect that you are suffering from infectious arthritis, a joint fluid test can confirm that diagnosis. The joint fluid will show the presence of microbes if this is the case. With this information, your doctor will be able to chart an effective course of treatment.

Next Steps in Treatment

After tests have been performed to identify the source of your symptoms, we can work with you to create an effective treatment plan. While there is no cure for arthritis, but there are many things that we (and you) can do to reduce the severity of your symptoms and to slow the progression of cartilage degradation. We offer a comprehensive approach so that you have access to a range of treatments that fit your specific symptoms and your lifestyle. You do not have to live in pain. If you have been dealing with symptoms of arthritis in your spine, get in touch. We’ll work with you to find the source and start working toward relief.

Request an Appointment

Are you ready to alleviate your pain and restore your physical function so you can live your best life – the one you want and deserve? The entire Clearway team is ready to help.

To request an appointment, please click the button below. You will be routed to our Patient Portal, where you can register with us by providing us with some basic information. We will get back as quickly as possible to set up and confirm your appointment day and time. Just below the form, we provide answers to some of the most frequently asked questions, as well.

Any Questions?