Healthy Living

Can Arthritis Cause Back Pain?

Can arthritis cause back pain?

Yes. Arthritis is one of the major causes of back pain and can cause long-term effects in an individual. Back pain is a common problem which affects 4 out of 5 of us at some point. Back pain is a type of pain experienced mostly through the spine. Back pain can last for a short time, but there are cases where pain is continual or recurring.

There are many forms of arthritis that can cause problems like pain or stiffness and swelling in the back. Back pain caused by arthritis is a very common type of back pain that tends to commonly affect older people. Although any part of the back can have arthritis, the lower back is the most common site of arthritis back pain, most likely because it bears more of the body’s weight.  Symptoms of arthritis of the spine are caused when the bones or other structures of the back put pressure on or pinch the spinal cord or the nerve roots that emerge from the spinal cord.

Types of arthritis that cause back pain


This is the most common type of arthritis that causes back pain. In fact, osteoarthritis of the spine, also called spondylosis, affects 15 percent of all American adults. It is a condition that causes degeneration of the cartilage that acts as a cushion for the back bones. As a result of this degeneration, swelling and back pain occurs. A patient experiencing back pain that persists for a prolonged period of time, is also called degenerative joint disease.

Osteoarthritis of the spine

This is a condition that leads to the breakdown of the disc and joint cartilage in the neck and the lower back. This can be very difficult to manage since it causes continuous episodes of back pain in patients.

Causes of osteoarthritis
Causes of this condition may include the following:

  • May result from injuries or trauma of the joints
  • It may also be a result of genetic complications of the joints

Ankylosing spondylitis

This is a form of inflammatory arthritis in which joints of the spine become inflamed, often leading to stiffness and pain in the back. The damage to the spine and joints connecting the spine to the pelvis from this condition can be seen on X-ray.

Psoriatic arthritis

This is a form of arthritis that is commonly associated with the skin disease psoriasis. It also causes joint complications in the spine, inducing back pain. It may also cause fused growth of the vertebrae which leads to excessive back pain.

Enteropathic arthritis

Enteropathic arthritis develops in approximately 9% to 20% of people with inflammatory bowel disease such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. It is a form of arthritis that mostly causes lower back pain. This type of arthritis causes various inflammatory infections such as Crohn’s disease. It is commonly known to affect the sacroiliac joints which are the main source of lower back pain.

Infectious arthritis

This is caused by an infection in the joints and is usually caused by bacteria, or fungus. It is also known as septic arthritis. In cases where it affects the facet joints in the spine, it causes back pain. This also results from the entry of bacteria in the spine joints upon the onset of the infection. Young children and elderly adults are most likely to develop septic arthritis. People with open wounds are also at a higher risk for septic arthritis.

Reactive arthritis

Reactive arthritis is a chronic form of arthritis that often occurs following an infection of the genital, urinary or gastrointestinal system. This form of the disorder is sometimes called genitourinary or urogenital reactive arthritis. Reactive arthritis is a type of "spondyloarthritis" a group of disorders that can cause inflammation throughout the body, especially in the spine. This type of arthritis can be chronic. It features various effects such as inflammation of the body joints. In the event it reaches joints located at the back or the spine joints, can lead to back pain.

Spinal arthritis

This is most commonly known as juvenile spondylarthropathy, and begins around 16 years of age or below, in most cases. This type of arthritis causes inflammation of the spine, especially in the joints. It is also known to affect other organs such as the bowels, eyes and the skin.

Rheumatoid arthritis

A rare condition, that happens only when the immune system accidentally attacks the body’s synovium. In most cases, rheumatoid arthritis affects the feet, ankles, hands and wrists. However, in some cases it can affect the facet joints of the spine. As a result, it leads to the disruption and destruction of joints. It may further alter the structure of the vertebrae and cause back pain.


Fibromyalgia, is considered an arthritis-related condition but is not truly a form of arthritis because it does not cause inflammation or damage to the joints, muscles or other tissues. It is, however, considered a rheumatic condition because it impairs the joints and/or soft tissues and causes chronic pain. It is a syndrome of chronic, widespread muscle pain and fatigue, which can be debilitating. The lower back is a common site of fibromyalgia pain.


Gout is a form of arthritis that occurs due to an excess of uric acid being deposited in the body tissues, including the joints.  Any joint can be affected, but the big toe is by far the most common. It can also less commonly affect the spine, causing extreme pain, numbness and tingling.

Exercises to relieve arthritis back pain

  • Slide stretches
  • Taking a slow, long walk can help relieve back pain. You should wear flat shoes.
  • Learn to sit in the right posture and avoid using the same posture for a long time.

Learning to manage pain

Your healthcare provider can recommend many ways to manage your pain. There are many things you try, like acupuncture, massage and manipulation of the spine.

The Bottom Line

There are a number of arthritic conditions that cause back pain. If you experience persistent back pain, you should seek immediate medical attention.