17 early signs of arthritis in the back

Early signs of back arthritis may include pain, swelling and other symptoms.
Early signs of back arthritis may include pain, swelling and other symptoms.

Arthritis in the back arises due to the inflammation of facet joints in the spine or sacroiliac joints between the spine and the pelvis. The main reasons for arthritis in the back include

  • Wear and tear
  • Excess weight
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Infection
  • Poor posture at work
  • Professions involving lifting heavy machines or loads

Some of the early signs of arthritis in the back include

  1. Back pain - especially in the lower back - tends to be worse in the morning, particularly 30 minutes after waking up. The pain subsides with activity as  the day progresses.
  2. Back stiffness
  3. Intermittent joint pain that may be aggravated by motion
  4. Pain and swelling in other areas of the body (inflammatory arthritis)
  5. Pain that disturbs sleep is often an indicator of osteoarthritis
  6. Swelling and tenderness in one or more joints and these changes may also be triggered by weather changes
  7. Feeling of bone grinding or rubbing when moving the spine
  8. Loss of flexibility of the joints mainly experienced as an inability to bend or pick something off the floor
  9. Whole-body weakness
  10. Fatigue
  11. Headaches
  12. A sensation of pinching, tingling or numbness in a nerve or along the spinal cord
  13. Bone soreness in the lower spine
  14. Burning sensation after physical activity
  15. Muscle spasms
  16. Decreased range of motion
  17. Bone spurs (extra bits of bone around the affected joints that feel like hard lumps)

Some of the late signs of arthritis in the back include

  • Pain that radiates to the arms and legs
  • Muscle weakness
  • Loss of bowel or bladder function
  • Loss of coordination or changes in the ability to walk
  • Severe back spasm
  • Kyphosis (humped spine deformity)

What are the different types of arthritis that affect the back?

There are several types of arthritis. The different types of arthritis that may affect the back or neck include

  • Osteoarthritis of the spine: This is noninflammatory, degenerative arthritis. It is the most common form of arthritis that affects the back. Wear and tear seem to be the reason that osteoarthritis develops.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis of the spine: This is an autoimmune disorder where the lining of the joints is affected. It’s a type of inflammatory arthritis because wear and tear on the joints is not involved.
  • Fibromyalgia: This causes chronic, widespread muscle pain and fatigue.
  • Spondyloarthritis: This is a group of inflammatory diseases that affects both the joints and the areas where the ligaments and tendons are attached to the bones. There are several forms of spondyloarthritis, including
  • Polymyalgia rheumatica: An inflammatory disorder that causes widespread muscle pain and stiffness.


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Medically Reviewed on 12/10/2020
Medscape Medical Reference

Johns Hopkins Medicine

Mayo Clinic

Arthritis Foundation

Columbia University Department of Neurological Surgery