Osteoarthritis is a common condition of the lumbar spine. It is due to lots of wear and tear from heavy lifting and twisting of the back. Arthritis of the lumbar spine is seen most commonly in older people although all age groups can be affected.
Risk factors for developing osteoarthritis of the lumbar spine include:
- Older Age
- Prior injuries to the lumbar spine
- Heavy workers
The arthritis occurs in the joints, such as the facet joints that hold the vertebral bodies stable. When arthritis sets in, it causes bone spurs in the joints that can produce foraminal stenosis – a narrowing of the spaces where the nerve roots exit the spinal cord and go out to the body. The arthritis most often seen is osteoarthritis. This comes from wear and tear on the joints. Medical doctors call this type of arthritis “spondylosis”. You can see spondylosis along with degeneration of the disc and spinal stenosis. Disc degeneration involves a breakdown and drying out of the intervertebral discs. Spinal stenosis occurs when the vertebral body or one of the processes increase in size and encroach upon the spinal cord itself.
Symptoms of Lumbar Arthritis
The major symptoms are stiffness and pain in the lumbar region. The back is stiffest in the morning and loosens up as the day progresses. Strenuous activity makes the pain worse. Soft tissue swelling worsens as bony spurs develop on the spinous processes. Symptoms of spinal stenosis generally occur late, with shooting pain and numbness or tingling travel down the buttocks and leg.