Lumbar spondylosis, also known as lumbar osteoarthritis, is a degenerative condition that gradually develops over time. The bones and protective cartilage undergo wear and tear over time and this could result in lumbar spondylosis. The discs are made of a combination of a cartilage and a soft pulpy gel in the center and are very elastic enabling them to take the load of stress applied to the vertebrae. However, due to degeneration the discs tend to dehydrate and shrink. This causes loss of elasticity to the disc resulting in it propensity to get torn. When the discs tear it results in the soft inner portion bulging out of the disc through the tears. This condition is called disc prolapse or herniation or slipped disc. This is one of the most common features of lumbar spondylosis. The other issues are, damage to the vertebrae, to the ligaments or the facet joints.
As one grows older, the bones and cartilage of the spine gradually undergo wear and tear. So, multiple changes occur in the spine. The main purpose of the lumbar spine is to support the majority of body weight. But overtime, as the spine undergoes repetitive motions, heavy lifting, or even weight gain, compression of the lumbar vertebrae happens. Hence, there is pressure to the discs and joints which results in deterioration in the functioning of the lumbar spine and possibility of development of other spine conditions such as spinal stenosis.
The soft, elastic material that absorbs the shock of lifting, twisting, and other activities inside the discs dries out as one ages. This condition is mostly seen in people over the age of 40.
Cracks can then develop in the spinal discs leading to leakage of the gel-like material. This material can press the spinal cord and nerves resulting in numbness and sciatica. This condition is called herniation of the discs.
Lumbar spondylosis can also be a result of an injury to the back, which hastens the aging process.
Ligaments are cords of tissue that connect the bones. The spinal ligaments can stiffen with age making them less flexible.
Due to disc degeneration, the body itself tries to produce extra bone to strengthen the spine. This condition is called bone spurs. This can sometimes press the spinal cord and nerve roots resulting in numbness and tingling.
Lumbar spondylosis is part of the aging process.
Jobs involving repetitive movements, heavy lifting, etc. can result in lumbar spondylosis.
Poor posture results in putting extra stress on the lumbar spine that can result in lumbar spondylosis.
The risk of lumbar spondylosis increases in case of any injury to the spine.
The initial evaluation for lumbar spondylosis begins with an accurate history and thorough physical examination with appropriate provocative testing. Radiographic studies such as x-rays, CT, or MRI will help in providing confirmatory evidence to support the exam finding. In case of findings of nerve compression during clinical history, electromyographic studies may be done.
Conservative treatments work well in case of mild lumbar spondylosis. The most common forms of conservative treatment options for lumbar spondylosis include:
Most of the above-mentioned treatment options can be combined to obtain maximum pain relief. However, one should always consult the physician before starting and/or combining any of the treatments.