Lumbar spondylosis

November 12, 2012

Lumbar spondylosis

Lumbar spondylosis is a degenerative medical condition of the lower spine. This painful condition is the result of the space, or spaces, narrowing between the vertebrae of the lumbar region of the spine. This compromising of the spine may result in various health issues from mild back pain to neurological disorders.

Spondylosis literally means stiffening or fixation of the bony building blocks of the spine (vertebrae) as the result of a disease process. Spondylosis refers to degenerative changes in the spine such as bone spurs and degeneration of the discs that act as cushions between the vertebrae.

Lumbar spondylosis is generally, but not always, a condition of old age – the spine goes through a number of changes due to wear and tear as we age, these changes are known to cause vertebrae to degenerate. Spondylosis is not exclusive to the lumbar region of the spine – it may also develop in the cervical and thoracic vertebrae and is frequently referred to as spinal osteoarthritis.

How does lumbar spondylosis develop?

In most cases, lumbar spondylosis is the result of the space between the vertebrae, or discs, of the lumbar region of the spine narrowing. This narrowing causes a number of symptoms to develop due to increased pressure on the nerves leaving the spinal cord; these symptoms may include -

  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Radiating pain

Left untreated lumbar spondylosis may eventually cause incontinence and difficulty walking as well as other neurological problems – this is due to narrowing of the spinal canal that then obstructs the spinal cord.

As the condition progresses

As lumbar spondylosis continues to develop the vertebrae of the spine, will gradually stiffen, and eventually fuse together – this means increased back pain for the patient and a decrease in flexibility, the spine may even become misshapen and impaired due to these stiffened, immobile vertebrae. In some patients, the condition is worsened by the development of bony spurs or overgrowths around the spine that also exert pressure on nerves.

Diagnosis

A patient complaining of backache will first have a full medical history taken by their medical practitioner; a full physical examination will be followed by imaging tests – such as X-rays. A neurological examination may also be considered necessary to exclude any related problems in the spinal canal.

Treatment

Once a diagnosis has been made, the medical practitioner will work with the patient to develop a treatment program, – this may include the use of medication, physical therapy, lifestyle changes and, in extreme cases, surgery may be recommended in order to stabilise the spine and to correct the condition.

Lifestyle changes such as improvements in diet and a moderate exercise program have been found to be beneficial to patients with degenerative conditions of the spine.

Any treatment program will depend on a number of factors – mainly the age of the patient and the severity of the condition. An elderly patient would not necessarily be advised to undergo surgery, whereas for a patient in their sixties surgery may well be the best option in order to improve their quality of life.

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