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.
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.
Over time, the cartilage between the facet joints can break down due to age, repetitive motion, or as a result of an injury.
With less or no cartilage to protect the opposing surfaces of the facet joints, friction is increased and the bones can rub together.
This increased friction can cause damage to the bones, resulting in decreased motion and inflammation.
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.
As a response to the joint instability, bone spurs may form, which can then irritate or compress nearby nerves in the spine.
Symptoms of bone spurs may include radiating nerve 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.