Lumbar Spondylosis: Spondylosis, also known as spinal osteoarthritis, can affect the lumbar, thoracic, and/or the cervical regions of the spine. The intervertebral discs and facet joints are affected with this degenerative disorder. The biochemical changes that occur as an individual ages affects tissue throughout the body and may have a detrimental effect on the structure of the discs.
Spondylosis (spinal osteoarthritis) is a degenerative disorder that may cause loss of normal spinal structure and function. Although aging is the primary cause, the location and rate of degeneration is individual. The degenerative process of spondylosis may affect the cervical (neck), thoracic (mid-back), or lumbar (low back) regions of the spine.
Spondylosis often affects the following spinal elements:
Intervertebral Discs As people age, certain biochemical changes occur affecting tissue found throughout the body. In the spine, the structure of the intervertebral discs (annulus fibrosus, lamellae, nucleus pulposus) may be compromised. The annulus fibrosus (eg, tire-like) is composed of 60 or more concentric bands of collagen fiber termed lamellae. The nucleus pulposus is a gel-like substance inside the intervertebral disc encased by the annulus fibrosus. Collagen fibers form the nucleus along with water and proteoglycans. The degenerative effects of aging can weaken the annulus fibrosus’ structure, causing the ‘tire tread’ to wear or tear. The water content of the nucleus decreases with age affecting its ability to rebound following compression (e.g. shock absorbing quality). The structural alterations from degeneration may decrease disc height and increase the risk for disc herniation.
Lumbar (Low Back) Spondylosis often affects the lumbar spine in people over the age of 40. Pain and morning stiffness are common complaints. Usually multiple levels are involved (eg, more than one vertebrae). The lumbar spine carries most of the body’s weight. Therefore, when degenerative forces compromise its structural integrity, symptoms including pain may accompany activity. Movement stimulates pain fibers in the annulus fibrosus and facet joints. Sitting for prolonged periods of time may cause pain and other symptoms due to pressure on the lumbar vertebrae. Repetitive movements such as lifting and bending (eg, manual labor) may increase pain.
Lumbar Spondylosis: Lumbar spondylosis is principally a disease of mid and later life. As the lumbar discs and associated ligaments undergo aging, the disc spaces frequently narrow. Thickening of the ligaments that surround the disc and those that surround the facet joints develops. These ligamentous thickening may eventually become calcified. Compromise of the spinal canal or of the openings through which the spinal nerves leave the spinal canal can occur.
Causes of Lumbar Spondylosis: Spondylosis is caused by degenerative changes within the intervertebral discs. The soft, elastic material dries out and loses height. Thickening of the ligaments that surround the disc occurs. Alterations of the alignment of the joints that connect the back of the spine also occurs. These other ligaments undergo further degenerative changes, thickening and potential calcification.
Signs and Symptoms of Lumbar Spondylosis: Lumbar spondylosis reduces the ability of the involved segment to go through its normal range of motion. Back pain and back stiffness are common. Compression of the nerves within the spinal canal or the nerves exiting the spinal canal can lead to pain, numbness or weakness in the legs, buttock or bowel and bladder. Abnormalities of gait can occur. Occasionally, these degenerative changes can produce instability of the spine. Alterations in the alignment of the spinal segments, or spondylolisthesis, can lead to deformity of the spine and further pain and neurological symptoms.