Arthritis in the lower back, also known as lumbar spine arthritis, is a common neurological problem that affects millions of people and does not discriminate between genders. Lower spine arthritis can cause severe discomfort and chronic pain lasting from days or weeks to months or more. If you suspect that you might have arthritis in your lower back, continue reading and learn about the symptoms, causes and possible treatment options.
Overview of Lower Back Pain Arthritis
Although there are many types of back pain, most sufferers will tell you that lower back pain is the worst. There are also many types of arthritis, with the lumbar spine an area very common for arthritis. We all suffer from back pain at some point in our lives, whether it’s from sleeping uncomfortably, being pregnant or just overdoing it with a physical activity. Many of these things can cause lumbar spine pain or injury, which may, in time, turn into arthritis.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, arthritis is the major cause of disability in the nation. When patients have chronic back pain, it’s important that they see a doctor to get a proper diagnosis. Thousands of patients who suffer from lower back pain, and even those who are diagnosed as having arthritis in their lower back, aren’t even aware that they may have additional issues such as bone spurs or bulging discs.
Symptoms of Arthritis in Lower Back
Patients who suffer from lower back pain or arthritis in the lower back often experience a variety of symptoms depending on the severity of the problem and what initially caused it. Too often, patients attribute their back aches to doing too much of one thing or getting older, etc., rather than seeking treatment and determining the true cause.
Understanding the symptoms consistent with arthritis in the lower back can make a difference in making the decision to seek treatment and possible relief. Here are some of the most common signs or symptoms that show you may have arthritis in your lower back.
- Lower back stiffness
- Lower back pain
- Numbness or weakness in the lower back
- Back is particularly stiffer in the morning and may get better throughout the day
- Symptoms may intensify after physical or prolonged activities
- Shooting or stabbing pain that goes from the back to the hips
- Back pain that becomes chronic pain, lasting for months
- Cramping in the arms and legs
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
Causes of Arthritis in the Lower Back
Like most types of arthritis, spinal arthritis usually worsens over time. What may start as an injury-related back pain can turn into lumbar spine arthritis or a similar degenerative back or spine problem. When lumbar spine arthritis gets worse, the joints often develop bone spurs and the tissues become swollen and inflamed.
Once this happens, the condition can develop into spinal stenosis. Spinal stenosis can be found in a lot of patients suffering from spinal arthritis. Patients may also show signs of developing spinal arthritis as they age.
Arthritis in the lower back can come from several causes; however, it is usually caused by a combination of risk factors all joining together. Some of the most common causes include the following:
- Repetitive trauma to the spine
- Accident-related repeated strain to the spine
- Back surgery
- Back injuries
- Sports injuries
- Poor posture
- Repetitive work-related accidents where the spine gets overused
In addition to the aforementioned causes, there are also risk factors that make some patients most susceptible to lower back arthritis.
- Aging – As the spine ages, back problems often intensify, usually more so with work-related injuries.
- Gender – Although arthritis affects both men and women, spinal arthritis seems to be more common in post-menopausal women. For men, those under the age of 45 are more susceptible.
- Genetics – This is particularly so for those with a family history of congenital spine or joint issues.
- Overweight – Being overweight can cause more stress and strain on the spine, particularly when one reaches middle age.
- Associated diseases – Other contributing factors may be diseases such as diabetes, gout, rheumatoid arthritis or similar afflictions.
Treatment of Arthritis in the Lower Back
The good news for those who suffer from arthritis in the lower back is that there are treatments to help provide some relief from this debilitating condition. One of the first things your doctor will do, however, is to take some tests to determine if you actually suffer from arthritis or some other back problem that may be associated with or may lead to arthritis.
Often a doctor can determine if you have arthritis just from getting a medical history and giving you a physical examination. However, a simple x-ray will usually tell the entire story. In some cases, the doctor may order an MRI of your back to get an even better and clearer picture of what’s going on in the lower back.
The treatment the doctor prescribes is usually dependent on the patient’s symptoms. Whereas some patients may be given a list of exercises they can do to get relief, others are prescribed more aggressive types of treatment. There is generally no cure for lower back arthritis, but there are several types of treatment lower back arthritis sufferers may receive.
- Physical therapy – This is usually to strengthen the body parts that support the back and relieve some of the back stress.
- Medication – Physicians may prescribe medications that both reduce swelling and provide pain relief. These may include prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines.
- Weight loss program – If the patient is overweight, the doctor may initiate a weight loss program to decrease pain and provide relief to the patient.
- Exercise – The doctor may recommend a regimen of regular exercises aimed at back pain relief.
- Ice, heat or massage – These various treatment methods are often recommended to provide relief from pain, swelling or overall discomfort.
- Chiropractic treatments – Some patients are advised to see a chiropractor to help alleviate spine and lower back pain.
- Spine injections – In some cases, doctors may give patients spine injections to help them resume their daily routine.
- Back surgery – Although this is usually used as a last resort, some doctors recommend back surgery for their patients.
In some cases, the doctor may also recommend lifestyle changes if he or she feels this will benefit the patient, particularly in the early stages of the disease. Patients with arthritis in the lower back may feel like their life is very limited regarding what they can do physically, especially when they’re getting older. However, it’s important for patients to realize that there are many doctors specializing in this type of problem and various types of treatment options available to them.