Lumbar spondylosis is a degenerative condition which affects the lower spine. In a patient with lumbar spondylosis, the spine is compromised by a narrowing of the space between the vertebrae, causing a variety of health problems ranging from back pain to neurological issues. This condition is usually caused by old age, as the spine undergoes changes as people grow older, and many of these changes contribute to degeneration of the vertebrae. Spondylosis, which can appear in the cervical and thoracic vertebrae as well, is also known as spinal osteoarthritis.
In a classic case of lumbar spondylosis, the space between discs in the lumber spine becomes narrowed. As a result, the patient develops numbness, tingling, and pain which seem to radiate out from the area. These symptoms are the result of pressure on the nerves as they exit the spinal cord. If the spondylosis is allowed to progress, it can lead to a narrowing of the spinal canal, resulting in impingement of the spinal cord, which can cause poor bladder control, unsteady gait, and other severe neurological problems.
Over the course of the development of lumbar spondylosis, the vertebrae tend to become stiff, and they must fuse or immobilize. This leads to decreased flexibility and increased back pain as the patient's spine may become contorted or compromised by the immobilized vertebrae. Lumbar spondylosis can also be characterized by the development of bone spurs and bony overgrowths around the spine which can pinch nerves.
This condition is usually diagnosed with a manual exam and x-ray imaging of the spine. A neurological exam may also be administered to determine whether or not the lumbar spondylosis has caused problems in the spinal canal. Once a doctor has assessed the situation, he or she can work with the patient to develop an approach to treatment. Treatments are based on the severity of the lumbar spondylosis, along with the age of the patient; in a 90 year old patient, for example, surgery would not be advised, but in a 60 year old, surgery to correct the problem might be well worth the risk.
For mild cases, medications can be used to manage the pain caused by lumbar spondylosis, and physical therapy may be used to increase flexibility and strengthen the spine. Patients are sometimes advised to adopt a diet and exercise regimen which promotes general physical health. In extreme cases, a patient may be referred to a spinal surgeon for a surgery to correct the condition and stabilize the spine.