Lumbar Spinal Stenosis / Low Back Osteoarthritis
What is Low Back Osteoarthritis?
Your low back is made up of the last five vertebrae of your spine, called the lumbar vertebrae or lumbar spine. The boney knobs that you can feel running down your spine are part of the vertebrae and are called the “spinous process.”
On either side of each spinous process, there is a facet joint that connects each vertebra together to form the spine. These facet joints are lined with a smooth, rubbery layer of cartilage, separating the vertebra and allowing their movements to be smooth and painless.
Low back osteoarthritis (OA) is a type of spinal osteoarthritis that occurs when that layer of cartilage breaks down and wears away, causing bone to rub on bone. In more severe cases, painful bone spurs called osteophytes can form in the place of cartilage.
Lumbar spinal stenosis refers to the narrowing of the spinal cord which puts pressure on the spinal nerves and can compress or pinch them. One of the causes of spinal stenosis is low back OA due to bone spurs.
60% of people over the age of 40 have some joint degeneration in the lower back even though it may not always cause pain.
What Causes Low Back Osteoarthritis?
There is no single cause of low back OA, but factors that increase your likelihood of developing it include:
- Increasing age, especially over 65
- Gender – women are more likely to get osteoarthritis
- Being overweight
- Family history of osteoarthritis
- Previous low back injuries
- Genetic defects in the cartilage or spine
- Long-term, repetitive strain on your low back, whether occupational or recreational
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Low Back Osteoarthritis?
The most common symptom of low back OA is low back pain. Most often, the pain develops slowly over time, but it can appear suddenly.
Other signs and symptoms of low back OA include:
- Stiffness or tenderness in the low back
- Decreased range of motion and flexibility, especially first thing in the morning or after periods of inactivity
- Dull, aching pain, or sharpened pain during or after strenuous activity
- Muscle spasms in the low back
- Spinal stenosis can cause symptoms of tingling, weakness, numbness or pain that radiates from the low back into the buttocks, thigh, or groin
Concerned about symptoms of low back osteoarthritis? Book an assessment with a physiotherapist today.
How is Low Back Osteoarthritis Treated?
Treatments for low back OA typically include medications, physiotherapy, and surgery, though surgery should be considered only as a last resort, and many drugs carry serious side effects.
Treatments for low back OA include:
- Glucosamine supplement, which is found naturally in the fluid around the joints and is critical to building cartilage
- Medications, including:
- Over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen
- Topical medications such as creams, sprays, gels or patches
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), though these drugs can have serious side effects
- Steroid or hyaluronic acid injections, though these cannot be continued for a long period of time
- Surgery – if surgery is necessary after other less invasive treatments have not helped, physiotherapy is an important part of rehabilitation
Physiotherapy for Low Back Osteoarthritis
Physiotherapy is a drug-free and non-surgical treatment that has been proven to reduce arthritis pain.
The goal of physiotherapy for low back OA is to prevent the progression of the disease, reduce pain, regain strength, and increase joint mobility, function, and quality of life.
Depending on your individual needs, physiotherapy for low back OA can include:
- Stretching, strengthening, and range of motion exercises
- Stability and endurance exercises
- Activity modification and functional retraining
- Orthotics to add support and absorb the shock from your regular activities
- Patient education so you feel in control of your condition including relaxation and coping strategies
- Postural and ergonomic education
- Cross-disciplinary pain-relieving therapies such as:
Are you seeking physiotherapy for low back osteoarthritis treatment? Book an assessment today.
Can Hip Osteoarthritis Go Away on Its Own?
Unfortunately, no. There is no cure for low back OA, but with proper treatment, the disease can be managed effectively and progression stopped or delayed.
If you have low back OA, there are things you can do to make daily living easier, including:
- Minimizing activities that put stress on your low back, like bending and lifting, or carrying heavy things
- Changing daily activities such as eliminating or reducing a long commute
- Switching from high-intensity activities like jogging, to low-intensity activities like walking
- Using a properly supportive pillow and mattress
- Wearing a back brace
- Using an ergonomic chair at work and home
- Applying heat and cold therapy
Can You Prevent Low Back Osteoarthritis?
There are many things you can do to prevent or reduce the chance of developing low back OA, including:
- Exercising regularly, including stretching exercises such as yoga or tai chi (at least 30 minutes every day)
- Eating a non-inflammatory diet (avoiding processed and refined foods and sugar)
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Practicing good posture
Book a Physiotherapist Consult for Low Back Osteoarthritis Today
Concerned about symptoms of low back OA? Book an assessment with a physiotherapist today.