What is arachnoiditis?

Arachnoiditis is a rare neurological condition marked by inflammation of the arachnoid. The arachnoid is a lining that surrounds the central nervous system. The central nervous system consists of the brain and spinal cord. In most cases, patients seeking pain management services for arachnoiditis have the condition along the spinal cord.

Arachnoiditis is one of many causes of chronic back pain. It can also cause other symptoms such as numbness and tingling. In extreme cases, it can cause loss of bowel or bladder functions.

Causes of arachnoiditis are rare complications from spine surgeries and epidural steroid injections. Infection of the arachnoid can also cause arachnoiditis. In the past, certain oil-based contrast dyes used in CT scans also caused arachnoiditis in rare circumstances. However, these dyes are typically no longer used and have been substituted with water-based dyes.

Is there a cure for arachnoiditis?

Generally, arachnoiditis is a chronic condition. As such, the focus of care are typical rehabilitation goals: reduce the symptoms of arachnoiditis as much as possible through lifestyle changes and increase the ability to cope with the condition. The overall goal of rehabilitation is to live well despite having the condition.

Therapies & Procedures for arachnoiditis

Typical treatments for arachnoiditis are chronic pain rehabilitation and medications. Most chronic pain rehabilitation programs include medication management as part of their overall therapies.

Date of publication: April 27, 2012

Date of last modification: October 23, 2015

Murray J. McAllister, PsyD, is a pain psychologist and consults to health systems on improving pain. He is the editor and founder of the Institute for Chronic Pain (ICP). The ICP is an educational and public policy think tank. In its mission is to lead the field in making pain management more empirically supported, the ICP provides academic quality information on chronic pain that is approachable to patients and their families. 

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