Arthritis in the lower back or lumbar spine arthritis is a common problem in older people. It can also happen in obese and overweight individuals, heavy laborers and anyone with a previous history of spinal injuries.
The vertebrae in your backbone are separated from each other by cushion-like spinal discs in front of the spinal cord, while behind it they are connected by 2 small joints called facet joints. These facet joints, along with the spinal discs, allow movements such as forward bending, arching your back, or sideways twisting.
Arthritis in the lower back happens when protective cartilage wears out because of wear and tear, aging, injury or misuse. Your vertebrae rub together or start pressing on a nearby spinal nerve, leading to local pain and swelling.
Usually when facet joints in your backbone become arthritic, movement and flexibility in your neck and back are affected and spinal movements become painful and stiff. This is lumbar spine arthritis, often seen together with other conditions such as spinal disc degeneration and spinal stenosis.
Arthritis in the lower back causes stiffness and pain in patients, especially in the early morning right after getting out of bed. Their backs may loosen up over the course of the day with light activity. Another typical feature is that symptoms often become worse with prolonged or strenuous activity.
Other symptoms include intermittent back pain, pain and tenderness in the neck, lower back pain that runs down into the lower extremities, and difficulty bending, walking, or stretching.
Typically, as lumbar facet arthritis gets worse with time, these joints form bone spurs. Next, the tissue around them swells with inflammation which can lead to the surrounding nerves becoming pinched. This is called spinal stenosis and leads to symptoms such as leg pain, numbness, tingling, and difficulty in walking.
Lower back arthritis is traditionally treated in several ways:
- Anti-inflammatory medications alleviate pain by reducing the extent of the inflammation around arthritic facet joints. We recommend all natural anti-inflammatory supplements that work just as good or better at reducing inflammation and pain.
- Weight loss, even to a small extent, can relieve the load facet joints have to carry and leads to significant pain relief caused by arthritis in the lower back.
- Physiotherapy strengthens the muscles supporting the lumbar spine, so that less of a burden is placed on facet joints.
- Chiropractors provide temporary relief from pain by performing a process called spinal manipulation.
- Alternative treatments such as acupuncture, massage, yoga, and natural remedies offer some relief and usually have few side-effects.