Lumbar spondylosis is the normal wear and tear of the lumbar (lower back) spinal discs. As we age, spinal discs lose moisture and shrink, bone spurs develop, and bones because weaker. While many people over 50 experience mild lumbar spondylosis, most experience no symptoms.
If you’re experiencing symptoms, it likely means the condition is progressing and could cause other, more serious spinal conditions.
Symptoms and Causes
Since the purpose of the lumbar spine is to support your body weight, over time the L1-S1 vertebrae become worn and compressed from repetitive motion, heavy lifting, and weight gain.
Common causes include:
- Herniated or bulging discs
- Bone spurs
- Spine abnormalities
- Arthritis of the spine
In most cases, lumbar spondylosis only causes noticeable symptoms when the spinal cord or nerves around the spine become irritated or compressed. When symptoms do occur, they can differ greatly from person to person. For example, if there is pressure on the sciatic nerve, it can cause pain in the back, buttocks, legs, feet, and toes.
Common symptoms of lumbar spondylosis that may vary from case to case include:
- Intermittent back pain that may radiate to the extremities
- Joint or muscular stiffness upon awakening
- Muscle weakness and/or tingling in the back, buttocks, legs, and other affected areas
- Numbness or loss of sensation in the affected areas
- Tenderness in the area of nerve compression
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
Diagnosis and Treatment
In addition to a physical exam to note range of motion, reflexes, and fine motor skills, the spine specialists at Kelsey-Seybold Spine Center can perform imaging and other tests to determine the exact cause of your symptoms and what treatment is appropriate.
These tests may include:
- X-rays of the back to reveal any abnormalities
- CT scan for more detailed bone imaging
- MRI to find any areas where nerves may be compressed
- Myelography in which a dye is injected into the spinal canal prior to imaging tests
- A nerve function test called electromyography (EMG) that tests electrical activity in your nerves
- A nerve conduction study during which electrodes attached to the skin measure strength and speed of nerve signals
Treatment for lumbar spondylosis depends on the severity of your symptoms. Our spine specialists will develop a treatment plan to relieve your pain, avoid future damage, and help you manage your condition.
This treatment plan may include nonsurgical options, including:
- Physical therapy
- Restorative yoga
- Lifestyle changes, such as weight loss
- Pain medication and trigger point injections
In cases when nonsurgical treatment doesn't relieve symptoms, we may suggest minimally invasive surgery to decompress the spine.
Almost everyone develops lumbar spondylosis at some point, but not everyone experiences symptoms. If you have chronic back stiffness and pain that may radiate down your buttocks and legs, the team at Kelsey-Seybold Spine Center in Houston can determine if lumbar spondylosis is the cause and what treatment, if any, is needed. Make an appointment today by calling our 24/7 Contact Center at 713-442-0000.