How to Visualize Lumbar Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a leading cause of back pain in people over the age of 60. While osteoarthritis occurs commonly in load-bearing joints, such as hips or knees, it can also occur in the lumbar spine and cause back pain and stiffness.

When this occurs, it is known as lumbar osteoarthritis.

See Specialists Who Treat Back Pain

We recently added a Lumbar Osteoarthritis Video to our Spine-health Video Library. Below are some highlights from the video to help you visualize what's going on in your arthritic back.

Facet joints

Facet Joints with Text

Paired facet joints are located in back of each vertebra. They allow for movement in the spine, including twisting and bending, while also providing stability. In this image, the purple shows the location of the facet joints. The opposing surfaces of the facet joints are covered with cartilage, which reduces friction in the joint.

See Facet Joint Osteoarthritis

Unhealthy Cartilage

Over time, the cartilage between the facet joints can break down due to age, repetitive motion, or as a result of an injury.

See Facet Joint Disorders and Back Pain

Article continues below

With less or no cartilage to protect the opposing surfaces of the facet joints, friction is increased and the bones can rub together.

Facet Joints

This increased friction can cause damage to the bones, resulting in decreased motion and inflammation.


Lower Back Pain from Osteoarthritis

Primary symptoms of lumbar osteoarthritis include pain and stiffness in the lower region of the back. Patients may also experience muscle spasms in the back, as the muscles work to stabilize the spine.

See Pulled Back Muscle and Lower Back Strain

Bone Spurs on Facet Joints

As a response to the joint instability, bone spurs may form, which can then irritate or compress nearby nerves in the spine.

See Bone Spurs (Osteophytes) and Back Pain


Symptoms of bone spurs may include radiating nerve pain.

See Clinical Symptoms of Bone Spurs

See Radiculopathy, Radiculitis and Radicular Pain

If you suspect you may have symptoms of this type of osteoarthritis, early intervention and lifestyle changes can help. Contact your doctor and discuss your diagnosis and treatment options.

Learn more:

Non-Surgical Osteoarthritis Treatments

Surgery for Osteoarthritis

Post written by