Your hips, knees, and fingers are common sites for osteoarthritis (degeneration of cartilage)—but it can also strike your spine, and is commonly found near the facet joints in your lower back. So if you have lower back pain, read on. Spinal osteoarthritis may be the cause.

See: What Is Spinal Osteoarthritis (Facet Joint Arthritis)?

woman experiencing lower back pain
Spinal osteoarthritis occurs near the joints in the lower back and can cause pain after exercising or doing physical work. See How Arthritis Causes Back Pain

Causes and risk factors for spinal osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is typically found in people over the age of 40—impacting over 70% of people between ages 55 and 78.1 The incidence of lower spine osteoarthritis range from 40 to 85%.2

See What Is Osteoarthritis?

Given the prevalence of this condition, it's important to know your risk factors, which include:

  • Repetitive stress. Continuous stress from athletics or an occupation involving repeated (especially heavy) motion can put you at risk for this condition. Back injury or surgery can also cause this condition.
  • Age. Osteoarthritis is often associated with accumulated wear and tear over time, so your risk of developing osteoarthritis increases with age.
  • Gender. In general, both men and women can develop osteoarthritis, but age influences the frequency of occurrence. For example, it's more common for osteoarthritis to develop in men before the age of 45. In contrast, it is more common for osteoarthritis to occur in women after the age of 45.3
  • Obesity. Being overweight puts excess stress on your spine.
  • Other medical issues. Diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis (among other types of arthritis), infections, and other related diseases can put you at risk for osteoarthritis. More still, if you have osteoarthritis, you may also have spinal stenosis (when the spine becomes narrow); osteoarthritis is a frequent cause of spinal stenosis.4

    See How Osteoarthritis Can Lead to Spinal Stenosis

Osteoarthritis may also be caused by an issue at birth that affects your cartilage; it is even hereditary.

See Osteoarthritis Causes

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What does spinal osteoarthritis feel like?

Spinal osteoarthritis usually develops and symptoms become worse over time. Although pain can range from dull to severe, you may first notice achy pain after exercising or doing physical work. Spinal osteoarthritis may cause your back or neck to feel stiff; and your arms or legs may lose feeling or feel weak. This is because osteoarthritis can cause variations in your spine, thereby adding pressure to your nerves.5 You may also feel pain in areas surrounding your groin, buttocks, or back of your thighs.

See: Spinal Osteoarthritis Symptoms

If these symptoms sound familiar, a medical diagnosis (which typically consists of your medical history, physical exam, and X-rays) will determine if you have this condition.

See Spinal Osteoarthritis Diagnosis

Knowing your risk factors may encourage you to be aware of this condition and prompt you to seek an accurate diagnosis.

See: Spinal Osteoarthritis Treatment

Learn more:

Understanding Joint Pain

Osteoarthritis Symptoms and Signs


  1. Osteoarthritis. Cleveland Clinic website. Published August 2010. Accessed August 2, 2016.
  2. Goode AP, Carey TS, Jordan JM. Low Back Pain and Lumbar Spine Osteoarthritis: How Are They Related? Current rheumatology reports. 2013;15(2):305. doi:10.1007/s11926-012-0305-z.
  3. Handout on Health: Osteoarthritis. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Accessed July 11, 2016.
  4. Spinal Stenosis. University of Southern California website. Accessed July 11, 2016.
  5. Handout on Health: Osteoarthritis. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Accessed July 11, 2016.