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What is Lumbar Arthritis?

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What is Lumbar Arthritis?

  • Dr. Charla Fischer
  • Feb 12, 2019

Researchers estimate that more than 50 million Americans have been diagnosed with some type of arthritis. Lumbar spine arthritis is not a condition in itself but a symptom of other kinds of arthritis that may affect the spine.

Causes
Some of the most common types of arthritis that lead to lumbar arthritis pain include:

  • Osteoarthritis – the most common link to lumbar arthritis pain is osteoarthritis, in which the cartilage that is supposed to cushion your facet joints wastes away over time. Located on each side of your vertebra, your facet joints play an important role in allowing you to move freely and comfortably. When the cartilage becomes damaged, your spinal bones grind against each other when you move. The joint becomes inflamed and painful.
  • Psoriatic arthritis – this type of arthritis affects only patients who have psoriasis, an autoimmune condition causing patches of itchy, inflamed skin. Some people with psoriatic arthritis also have lumbar pain, even resulting in reduced range of motion or permanent feelings of stiffness.
  • Reactive arthritis – this type of arthritis is caused by an infection in your body, such as salmonella or chlamydia, and can lead to lumber arthritis.
  • Enteropathic arthritis – this kind of arthritis is linked to inflammatory bowel diseases like Chron’s disease or ulcerative colitis and causes some patients to experience lower back pain.

Symptoms
The most common symptom of lumbar arthritis is chronic pain or soreness in the lower spinal bones. Other primary symptoms are waking up feeling stiff in the lower back area or having a burning sensation after physical exertion. Additional symptoms of lumber arthritis to watch for include muscle spasms, reduced range of motion, or creaking joints.

Diagnosis
Most often, patients with lumbar arthritis have already been diagnosed with some type of arthritis. If that is not the case and you’re experiencing lumbar symptoms, see a qualified physician like NYC Spine Surgeon Dr. Fischer at NYU Langone Medical Center in NYC for a physical examination. If arthritis is suspected, an X-ray will be performed to identify issues with bone density, cartilage loss, or bone spurs. X-rays are also used to track arthritis after diagnosis to watch for continued joint damage. A blood test will be used to help diagnose the specific type of arthritis. Sometimes patients are referred to specialists such as a rheumatologist who focuses on joint pain.

Treatment
Dr. Fischer uses a number of treatment options for patients with lumbar arthritis pain. One or more of these methods may be part of your treatment plan:

  • Over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen, aspirin or naproxen are often prescribed for lumbar pain and inflammation.
  • Physical therapy can help by teaching exercises that focus on restoring lost range of motion in your lumbar region and increasing flexibility.
  • Prescription medication such as muscle relaxants or corticosteroids may be given to reduce inflammation and muscle spasms.
  • Lifestyle changes can help relieve your symptoms and improve your overall health. These may include losing weight, eating an anti-inflammatory diet, limiting alcohol consumption, or quitting smoking.
  • Alternative treatments might be considered such as chiropractic care or acupuncture, although these are typically not long-term solutions for lumbar arthritis pain.
  • Dr. Fischer will recommend surgery only as a last resort for patients whose bones have fused together or have such severe pain that movement is extremely difficult.

Prevention
Family history, gender and age all play a role in developing arthritis. Since you can’t control these factors, it’s important to concentrate on those you can such as maintaining a healthy weight, choosing low impact exercises, and following safe guidelines for lifting and moving. If you develop arthritis, there is no cure as it will continue throughout your life. Working with Dr. Fischer can help you lower your risks for flare-ups and help you remain free of lumbar arthritis pain.

If you live in the White Plains or New York City area, schedule a consultation with Dr. Fischer.


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