Osteoarthritis of the lumbar spine is extremely common in old age because it is an aging induced degenerative joint condition. If you are troubled by the alarming symptoms of osteoarthritis, then this article will serve an ideal guide to live a healthy and pain-free lifestyle.
If you are in your late forties and experiencing excruciating back pain, then there is high probability that you are suffering from osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disorder of the joints in which the protective layer, known as cartilage, undergoes wear and tear causing joint stiffness and inflammation. This may be due to a friction based injury which may produce symptoms of pain and difficulty in smooth joint movement.
What Is The Anatomy Of Spinal Joints?
Osteoarthritis usually affects people aged over 50. Statistics show that this degenerative condition is more common among men under 45 and women above 45. In order to understand osteoarthritis of the lumbar spine, you need to understand the anatomy of your spinal joints.
Your lower back can be divided into three main parts:
- Lumbar spine
The lumbar spine structure can further be divided into five lumbar vertebra and five intervertebral discs. It is the vertebra of your lumbar spine which are the largest vertebra present in your body. They bear the highest amount of your body weight which exposes them to great stress. This is the main reason why the vertebra of your lumbar spine is most susceptible to back pain.
What Is Osteoarthritis Of The Lumbar Spine?
As you age, the protective cartilage around your joints begins to erode away. In normal cases, the cartilage is smooth, translucent and white in color. However, if you are suffering from osteoarthritis then the structure of cartilage roughens and it becomes yellow and opaque. Once the cartilage surface becomes rough, osteophytes begin to form at the end of the joints.
These are small new bones which further increases the mechanical wear, hindering the repair mechanism of the cartilage cells. This exposes the bones to wear and tear as the force of friction begins to act on their surface. In severe cases, the process of cartilage erosion puts pressure on the spinal nerves. This restricts the smooth blood flow to your arms and legs. It is due to this reason that patients suffering from osteoarthritis often complain about numbness in their legs and arms.
What Are The Causes Of Osteoarthritis?
Lower back pain is mainly triggered due to the condition of osteoarthritis of the lumbar spine. Due to this degenerative joint diseases, the lumbar joints become inflamed which results in severe pain, restricted mobility and in extreme cases it may result in permanent paralysis. If you are experiencing the following cases it is of utmost importance that you consult your doctor immediately.
- Degeneration or wear and tear of the joints due to the natural process of aging.
- Injury or trauma, such as a car accident that triggers the process of joint cartilage erosion or joint irritation.
- Repetitive stress injury like typing on the computer for long hours without taking a break or lifting heavy load on a daily basis is one of the most common cause of osteoarthritis.
- Hereditary cause may also contribute to osteoarthritis.
- Disc degeneration may also cause osteoarthritis. The intervertebral disc supporting the two lumbar vertebra may undergo degeneration due to stress and aging. This may cause pain, stiffness and difficulty in moving the lumbar joint.
- Exercise induced injury is most common among active individuals like athletes. This is because the increased activity level increases friction when the bones in the joints rub against each other. This causes wearing off of the cartilage and the supporting structures that provide joint stability.
What Are The Symptoms Of Osteoarthritis?
The symptoms of the osteoarthritis of the lumbar spine may range on a scale from mild to severe. This condition has similar symptoms to that of intervertebral disc problems. If you troubled by any of the following symptoms then you may be suffering from osteoarthritis of the lumbar spine:
- Radiating pain in the lower back that extends to the buttock, leg and till back of the knee. It is a characteristic of this condition that it will avoid the front region of the lower leg and foot.
- Numbness and tenderness is experienced in the affected joint.
- Muscle spasm
- Back pain reduces in a sitting position as compared to standing stance.
- Swelling of the affected joint.
- Pain that aggravates on strenuous exercises.
- Inflammation of the joint increases after resting period.
- Loss of joint mobility in extreme cases.
9 Best Exercises For Osteoarthritis Of The Lumbar Spine
In order to choose the best exercise for your condition you need to familiarize yourself with the bone mineral density (BMD). This is a measure of the mineral density, mainly calcium which is present in your bones. If your bone density is below the normal range you need to be proactive and take the necessary steps to get it back on track.
As you age, your goal becomes not to increase your BMD but instead to maintain it. Along with taking a diet rich in Vitamin C and D you will also need to take some physical steps to make your bones healthy. However, you should be careful and discontinue any form of physical exercise that aggregates the lower back pain.
If you or your loved one is suffering from the painful condition of osteoarthritis then it becomes crucial to stretch the surrounding muscle of the affected joint. This will not only strengthen your muscles but will also rescue your joints from any permanent irreversible damage. By opting for a healthy active regime, you will increase flexibility and strength of your joints and supporting muscles. You can choose from the diverse list of exercises that are safe and healthy for a sensitive condition like osteoarthritis of the lumbar spine.
- Abdominal Stretching
This allows you to develop control over your abdominal muscles in terms of contraction and relaxation postures. Once you master this you can easily enhance spine support which will further help to reduce the lower back pain.
You need to lie down on your back, keeping your spine and pelvis in a neutral position. Then bend your knees and breathe in tightening your abdominal muscles. Continue this sequence by breathing evenly and contracting your abdomen muscles for 10 seconds.
- Clamshell Exercise
The main cause of osteoarthritis of the lumbar spine is the erosion of the supporting structures like cartilage. This exercise helps to develop and strengthen your outer hip and abdominal muscles which help to balance your lower body.
In this exercise you need lie on your side with both your knees bent together. Then contract your abdominal muscles by applying pressure on your belly button muscles without breathing in. Then slowly and gradually move away your upper knee like you are opening a clamshell and then bring it back to its original position and repeat.
- Motion Exercises
This includes a range of sideways, forward and backward bending exercises that allow you to build your back joints limber along with enhancing flexibility and movement of joints. If you are suffering from severe stiff back these are the perfect exercises that will benefit you.
- Low Impact Aerobic Exercises
Osteoarthritis of the lumbar spine is an extremely sensitive condition mainly due to the risk of spinal nerve damage. In such a case, safe and stress-free exercise become the most referred exercises by physiotherapist and other professional consultants. These exercise includes walking, cycling and water exercises which ensure that they keep your spine free from any form of undue stress. These exercises have the added benefit of making your circulatory system and lungs healthy.
- Hamstring Exercise
In osteoarthritis of the lumbar spine the loss of your bone cartilage and bone overgrowth leads towards severe pain and joint deformity. This applies excessive pressure on hamstring muscles making them more tight than normal. In this exercise you will stretch your hamstring muscles and make them more flexible and elastic.
You will need a strap to exert the appropriate pressure and to maintain the correct posture required for this exercise. Lie down on your back with your legs spread straight. Then hold one leg with the strap and gently raise it to a point that you feel a your knee and thigh muscles stretch. Repeat the same sequence with the other leg.
- Gluteus Strengthening
Just like the hamstring muscles, your gluteus muscles are also affected in osteoarthritis of the lumbar spine. In this exercise you are required to lie down on your back with a pillow supporting your stomach region. Then keep one leg straight and squeeze your buttocks and gently lift it up. Repeat the same steps with the other leg. This will help in maintaining and developing your stability and balance while walking.
- Cat And Cow
In this exercise, you will need to kneel on your legs and hands like a cat with your legs placed below your hips and hands below your shoulder. Now exhale as you arch your back raising your mid back upwards. Move your head towards the ground. As you begin to rise your head and tailbone then start inhaling.
You need to continue the steps with inhaling and exhaling sequence at least 10 times. This exercise helps in lubrication of your lumbar spine structure and thus helps in smooth movement.
- Toe Taps
Elevate your hips and support the raised position by placing a towel roll or pillow under your sacrum. Make sure that you place your entire hip weight on the support. Then gently raise your knees upwards using your arms to maintain the body balance. Your thighs should be in a straight position.
Then slowly and gradually bring one knee down to a point that your toe is just tapping the floor. Then go back to the original starting position. You need to repeat the steps with the other leg as well and make sure to continue these movement for 2 minutes. Once you have performed this exercise you will feel your lumbar spine in a more relaxed and pain-free state.
- Pelvic Tilt
This is an excellent exercise to relieve the pressure on your lumbar spine that causes the sensation of stiffness and numbness. Patients suffering from osteoarthritis of the lumbar spine often complain about restricted back movement. This exercise will help you to develop smooth back muscles movement and enhance muscle flexibility as well. You will need to lie on your back with your knees placed in a bending position.
Your hands will be placed on your lower abdomen in such a manner that your fingers point towards the pubic bone. Then gently arch your back and after a few minutes reverse the position by bending your navel in. This will rise your pubic bone region. Continue this sequence and repeat it at least five to ten times depending on the intensity of your lumbar spine pain.