Lumbar Arthritis Symptoms
Lumbar and Lumbosacral arthritis affects the lower back and pelvic girdle, causing
pain, inflammation, and the loss of motion in these areas.
The word arthritis, which literally means inflammation of the
joint, is used to describe a group of distinct diseases. These conditions all have
in common symptoms of pain, swelling, and stiffness of the joints and the tissues
The joints of the body, including the vertebrae, are cushioned by shock absorbing
cartilage. With time, cartilage begins to degenerate, sometimes resulting in arthritis.
Lumbar and lumbosacral arthritis affects the lower back and pelvic girdle, causing pain,
inflammation, and the loss of motion in those areas.
Causes of Lumbar Arthritis
With lumbar and lumbosacral arthritis, the symptoms effect the normally soft disks
between the vertebrae of the lower back gradually lose their elasticity and their ability
to cushion the bones effectively.
Beginning at about age 20, the disks of the spine begin to lose their elasticity and
become dehydrated. The lumbar disks become less supple and lose some of their height. This
alters the position of the vertebrae and the connecting ligaments, sometimes leading to
tears in disk tissue. Bony spurs may develop on the vertebrae, representing further
degeneration of the spine.
While the exact cause of lumbar and lumbosacral arthritis is not known, some
degeneration of the spine is thought to be the result of the normal aging process.
Sometimes an old injury or a direct blow to the spine will add to the arthritis.
Some people appear to inherit a tendency to develop osteoarthritis. Others may develop
rheumatoid arthritis, a systemic condition in which the synovial tissue that lines the
joints of the body becomes inflamed. People who are overweight or sedentary are also at
greater risk, as are those who have suffered back injuries. Those whose occupations
require heavy lifting, long periods of sitting or driving, or other repetitive pressures
on the backbone are also at risk for arthritis in this part of the spine.
Postmenopausal women develop arthritis more often than men. They are also more likely
to develop osteoporosis, a condition resulting in porous, weakened bones as a result of
low calcium. Infection may also sometimes play a role in triggering arthritic symptoms.
Lumbar Arthritis Symptoms
The most common symptom of all forms of arthritis is inflammation resulting in pain,
swelling, and stiffness in the joints and the connective tissue surrounding them. This
pain is often more intense in the early morning or after periods of inactivity. With
lumbosacral arthritis, the pain may spread into the pelvic region. It often results in an
altered gait or changes to your posture. As a result, it may have an impact on other
weight-bearing joints, especially the knee, hip, and ankle joints.
The discomfort associated with arthritis usually develops gradually. It typically
becomes a chronic condition, a kind of background noise that rarely resolves
completely. With treatment, the pain of arthritis can often be brought under control. Even
so, pain may continue to come and go, and its duration may vary.
Diagnosing Lumbar Arthritis and Lumbar Arthritis Symptoms
There are many possible injuries of the lower back, and the first aim of treatment is
to clearly identify the cause of pain. Sometimes this is a complicated task. Arthritis may
coexist with other conditions, such as lumbar disk herniation, sciatica, or degenerative
disk disease. Spinal stenosis, in which the space in the spinal canal narrows due to the
effects of arthritis, is a related condition.
True low back pain is located between the lower rib cage and the buttocks. This pain
may occasionally extend down to the level of the knee but usually not beyond. Back pain
associated with leg pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness in the legs is a sign of
compression or irritation of the nerve roots of the spine.
Your doctor may do several different kinds of tests to determine whether you suffer
from lumbar or lumbosacral arthritis. It is possible to have more than one type of
arthritis at once. By means of various tests, your doctor can consider or rule out other
causes of your symptoms, like injury or rheumatoid arthritis.
Your doctor will examine your spine and ask about your general health and any previous
injuries, as well as ongoing conditions such as diabetes or a heart condition. X-rays show
damage to the bones of the spine and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans may be used to
confirm and locate soft tissue degeneration. Blood tests are used to diagnose rheumatoid
Treament of Lumbar Arthritis Symptoms
Arthritis is a condition that sometimes flares up suddenly, often in relation to
weather conditions or stress. It may require a short period of bed rest, with a return to
moderate activity as soon as possible. While many people with chronic low back pain are
tempted to habitually limit their physical activity, in the long run this is unwise.
Treatment for lumbar or lumbosacral arthritis focuses on controlling pain with the aim
of helping you lead as normal and active a life as possible. Non-steroidal
anti-inflammatory medications or other non-narcotics are commonly used to manage pain.
Muscle relaxants may be prescribed occasionally but they should be used with caution, as
the risk of dependency exists. Sometimes, in cases of extreme pain, a single treatment of
a corticosteroid epidural is injected directly into the affected area.
Masking pain with strong medication may cause you to sprain or injure the back in some
way through overexertion. For this reason, doctors recommend limiting the use of strong
painkillers to episodes of severe pain, during brief periods when you are able to rest the
back. In general, it is best to try to be active, using the lowest possible dose of pain
Increased physical fitness can make a big difference when treating lumbar or
lumbosacral arthritis, as it improves not only the condition of the back but also general
health and well being. To achieve this, a guided exercise program should be implemented to
build up muscle strength in the back and abdominal muscles. Your doctor or a physical
therapist can recommend specific exercises to help you gradually increase the strength in
your lumbar area.
It is also important to adequately manage or reduce your weight, as increased weight on
the back causes stress on the vertebrae, making the arthritic condition worse. Some people
may occasionally need assistive devices, such as a cane or walker, to help them get
Ultrasound, heat, ice, and massage have all proven to be of benefit when treating
lumbar and lumbosacral arthritis. Some patients find that acupuncture offers relief.
Surgical procedures for lumbar and lumbosacral arthritis are relatively rare. Still,
they may be considered in the event that conservative therapy does not bring about
sufficient pain relief. Open surgery, using general anesthesia, may be recommended for
selected patients. A technique known as a laminectomy is often used in cases of spinal
stenosis - a condition related to arthritis of the spine -- to widen the area
available to the spinal cord. Sometimes, to stabilize the lumbar region, two or more
vertebrae are fused together. Surgical procedures may include removing bony spurs and
removing ruptured disks pressing on nerves.
Any form of surgery on the spine is a serious undertaking, and should be considered
only on the advice of an experienced orthopedic surgeon. A neurosurgeon should also be
consulted, especially if symptoms include pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots.
Complications of Lumbar Arthritis Surgery
Outcomes of surgery for lumbar or lumbosacral arthritis are dependent on the state of
ones general health, including mental and emotional health. It is important to work
with your doctor to decide on the most effective treatment procedures, evaluating and
comparing the risks of surgery with the expected benefits.
The use of alcohol, tobacco, or drugs, including mind-altering drugs, muscle relaxants,
antihypertensives, tranquilizers, sleep inducers, insulin, sedatives, beta-adrenergic
blockers, and corticosteroids, increases surgical risk.
Although surgery for lumbar or lumbosacral arthritis is usually without any significant
problems, there may be occasional unforeseen complications associated with anesthesia,
including respiratory or cardiac malfunction. The surgery itself may be complicated by
infection, injury to nerves and blood vessels, fracture, weakness, stiffness or
instability of the joint, pain, or the need for additional surgeries.
Surgery should always be undertaken when the patient is in the best possible health,
with any other chronic conditions under effective management. Follow your surgeons
directions carefully before and after any surgical procedure, keeping in mind that
recovery depends not on surgery alone but also on commitment to the rehabilitation
People with lumbar or lumbosacral arthritis are advised to become educated about caring
for their backs: using proper lifting techniques, practicing a specific set of stretching
and strengthening exercises, and modifying their activities to protect the backbone. All
of these measures may significantly reduce the chance of increased injury to the spine.