Lumbar spondylosis is a degenerative condition that affects the lower region of the spine called the lumbar area, more commonly known as the lower back. Degenerative changes in the spine are very common as people age.
The discs in-between each of the 24 vertebrae that make up the spine serve an important function. Each disc allows the spine to move without the bones of the vertebra rubbing against each other.
As people age, repetitive activities of everyday living, such as lifting, bending and twisting place pressure on the lumbar spine including the discs. The discs can gradually deteriorate, which can lead to symptoms of lumbar spondylosis.
Symptoms and Natural History
Symptoms of lumbar spondylosis can include lower back pain, which may come and go. The back may also feel stiff, especially first thing in the morning. Certain activities that involve lifting or bending may increase pain.
In some cases, lumbar spondylosis causes symptoms of sciatica due to an inflammation of the sciatic nerve. Pain, tingling and numbness may radiate into the buttocks and legs.
Usually, symptoms start very slowly. Pain may be mild and only occur during certain activities. In other instances, lumbar spondylosis can become worse over time. Lower back pain can interfere with recreational activities and even daily living activities including walking and lifting.
An exam will be performed, along with a medical history. Since there are a lot of different causes of low back pain, additional testing may be done, such as an x-ray of the lower back. An x-ray may reveal bone spurs or decreased space between the lumbar vertebrae. A CT scan may also be ordered, which can provide a more detailed image of the spine.
Self-help Treatments for Lumbar Spondylosis
In many cases, conservative, self-help treatments decrease symptoms and are all that is needed. Although lumbar spinal changes are not reversed, symptoms may be controlled.
Learning proper body mechanics when lifting and bending can prevent further stress on the spine. Lifestyle changes, such as losing weight can also help reduce stress placed on the spine.
Applying heat or ice may help decrease pain. Wearing a back brace when performing certain activities, such as lifting may provide additional lumbar support and alleviate pain.
Standard Clinical Treatments for Lumbar Spondylosis
Standard treatments for lumbar spondylosis may include physical therapy. Physical therapists may teach exercises that strengthen the back and abdominal muscles. Although the problem is not with the muscles, strengthening muscles that surround the spine, can take pressure off the spine.
Medications are used to treat lumbar spondylosis and include narcotic pain medication and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory meds.
In most cases, surgery is not needed to treat lumbar spondylosis. If pain becomes debilitating, surgery may be needed to improve functioning. Different surgical techniques may be used. For example, a discectomy may be performed to remove a disc, which is pressing on a nerve root.
University of Maryland Medical Center. Spondylosis. http://umm.edu/programs/spine/health/guides/spondylolysis-and-spondylolisthesis
Spine Health. Spondylosis: What it Really Means. http://www.spine-health.com/conditions/lower-back-pain/spondylosis-what-it-actually-means