Arthritis of the Lumbar Spine
Lumbar or lumbosacral arthritis is a type of arthritis that affects the lower back and pelvis, resulting in inflammation of the joints, pain, and even loss of motion.
Arthritis of the lumbar spine most commonly affects older adults. However, it is not uncommon for younger patients to be diagnosed with this condition. Those with a higher risk of developing lumbar arthritis include:
- Men and women over 60
- People with obesity
- Individuals who regularly perform heavy labor
- Individuals with previous spinal injuries or spinal surgeries
As with most types of arthritis, the symptoms of lumbar arthritis include joint pain, swelling and stiffness. Pain and other symptoms, however, tend to be centralized in the lower back and pelvic region, with some people also experiencing pain the buttocks and thighs.
Patients with arthritis of the lumbar spine often report more aggravated symptoms in the morning after getting out of bed, with pain and stiffness decreasing over the course of the day. Symptoms also tend to worsen after long periods of inactivity or when performing strenuous activity.
After reviewing your medical history and examining your spine, your doctor may do a series of tests and procedures in order to diagnose your condition. This can include an X-ray, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), CT (computed tomography) scan, and even blood tests.
It is important for you to provide your doctor with detailed information about your pain, including:
- What it feels like
- Where it hurts
- How long you have experienced it
- What things make it better or worse
Individuals with lumbar arthritis should learn how to take care their backs in order to manage pain symptoms and reduce the chance of injuring the spine even further. If you have lumbar arthritis, for example, your doctor might recommend that you avoid certain activities, such as high-impact sports. Certain strengthening exercises can help fortify the muscles around the spine. Meanwhile, proper lifting techniques and stretches can help ensure the spine is protected.
Although there is no cure for arthritis of the lumbar spine, pain and other symptoms can be effectively managed with a variety of treatments, including:
Medication: Anti-inflammatory medications are commonly used in conjunction with other treatments to decrease the amount of inflammation around the joints and provide pain relief. Talk to your doctor if you plan on taking anti-inflammatory drugs, such as Ibuprofen or Naproxen, on a regular basis.
Hot/Cold Therapy: When used in the right combination, hot packs and cold compresses can help reduce inflammation and relieve pain associated with arthritis. Talk to your doctor to determine the best course of treatment for you.
Weight Loss: For patients who are obese or overweight, losing even 10 pounds can significantly lessen the amount of stress placed on the joints.
Physical Therapy: Exercises are used to strengthen and improve the function of the muscles surrounding the lumbar spine so that less burden is placed on the joints.
Epidural Injections: Injections are a more direct way of delivering anti-inflammatory medication, such as cortisone, to a specific area of the body.
Alternative Treatments: Many patients diagnosed with lumbosacral arthritis find pain relief by complementing their doctor-prescribed treatment plan with acupuncture, chiropractic, massage therapy, and/or natural remedies.