Lumbar osteochondrosis is a neurological disease of the spine that affects people of all ages, causing degenerative-dystrophic changes in the lumbar spine. They affect the intervertebral discs, articular cartilage, bone tissue.
The cause of the disease is the serious stress that the lower back experiences daily - when walking, sitting, lifting weights. It is very important to start treatment for osteochondrosis as early as possible to avoid possible complications. Lumbar osteochondrosis is a rather complex disease that requires complex therapy, under the supervision of an experienced specialist.
Lumbosacral osteochondrosis is a degenerative-dystrophic disorder in the articular cartilage of the spine, which is located in the lumbar spine. In other words, this disease means the destruction of the cartilaginous discs that are located between the vertebral bodies. The mobility of the vertebrae decreases, the distance between them decreases, compression occurs (compression) of the nerve endings.
The lumbosacral spine suffers more often than others due to the fact that the maximum load falls on it. In 80% of patients who complain of back pain, doctors diagnose osteochondrosis. The disease begins with the breakdown of glycoproteins in connective tissue, it is these compounds that give it elasticity. Intervertebral discs are the first to suffer from this process.
Each disc consists of a core and an outer fibrous ring. Once the core dries, the disc loses its elastic properties and the fibrous ring cracks and stratifies. Through gaps in the ring, the nucleus can fall out (a hernia is formed).
As a result of these processes, the load on the vertebrae increases significantly, the body responds to this with a sharp increase in bone formation in places with increased load.
Which vertebrae are affected
The lumbar region consists of five vertebrae: L1-L5, the fifth vertebra is attached to the sacrum. The discs between them are most commonly affected in osteochondrosis.
There are several types of lumbosacral osteochondrosis, they differ in the location of the vertebrae.
- Disease of the upper lumbar level (1, 2 and 3 vertebrae).
- Disease of the lower lumbar level (3, 4 and 5 vertebrae).
- Osteochondrosis of the sacrum (localized in the sacral bones). This type of disease is very rare.
- Fusion of the sacrum and vertebrae.
Stages of development of lumbosacral osteochondrosis
There are four stages (sometimes three) of osteochondrosis of the lumbosacral region. Here they are:
- There are changes in the nucleus and its position.
- The destruction of the outer fibrous ring begins.
- Once the ring breaks, the core falls off.
- Destructive processes affect the vertebrae, joints, ligaments.
In the first stage of lumbosacral osteochondrosis, a person experiences some discomfort and pain in the lower back. It can be acute or painful in nature. There is a spasm of muscles and blood vessels, problems with the functioning of organs.
Vessel spasms of the lower extremities can lead to atherosclerosis, bladder dysfunction.
In the second stage, due to the instability of the vertebrae, the back muscles are constantly tense. Patients complain of lower back fatigue, discomfort and insecurity.
In the third stage, the disc nucleus falls out of the fibrous ring and an intervertebral hernia is formed. Fragments of a dropped disc press on the nerve roots, which innervate the internal organs, muscles and skin areas. As a result, a change in the sensitivity of a certain area develops, a burning sensation, tingling and loss of sensitivity may develop. Nerve compression can lead to loss of motor function or muscle atrophy.
Depending on the area where the innervation is impaired, doctors can tell you exactly where the spine is damaged. If fragments of the disc fall into the spinal canal, the spinal cord is compressed. This often impairs the functioning of the pelvic organs and the motor function of the lower extremities.
In the fourth stage, there is a complete replacement of the disc tissues with dense connective tissue. There is some restoration of the supporting function of the spine, the pain subsides a little, but loses its mobility and elasticity.
The above stages are conditional, as the development of the disease is very individual.
Symptoms: the body will tell
Symptoms can be divided into major, related to changes in the spine, and additional, which are associated with impaired innervation due to pinching of nerves.
- pain and tingling in the lower back. In the beginning it can be temporary and can be manifested by physical exertion and movement. As they develop, they become permanent, can be sharp or painful, and even appear when coughing or sneezing;
- fatigue and depression;
- reducing the sensitivity of the lower extremities;
- impaired mobility of the lower back;
- curvature of the spine, lordosis.
- acute back pain;
- deterioration of reflexes;
- lower extremity shooting, lameness;
- muscle weakness;
- reduction of sweating;
- feeling cold in the feet.
Depending on the location of osteochondrosis, pain is observed in different parts of the body:
- with damage to 1-2 vertebrae - in the inguinal area;
- with damage to 3-4 vertebrae - in the lower leg and thighs;
- with the defeat of the 5th vertebra - in the sacrum, lower back.
How is lumbosacral osteochondrosis diagnosed?
The diagnosis begins with a detailed examination of the patient. The doctor should listen carefully to the patient's complaints, determine the location and intensity of pain, pay special attention to side effects (loss of skin sensitivity, impaired motor function).
The doctor should monitor the development of symptoms over time, analyze the nature and effectiveness of previous treatment (or self-medication). Also, the doctor should pay attention to the history, ask the patient about his lifestyle, working conditions and previous illnesses.
Particular attention should be paid to the posture, the possible curvature of the spine. It is worth noting how the patient moves, the degree of muscle development.
The main tool for the diagnosis of lumbosacral osteochondrosis is radiography. MRI and computed tomography have been used successfully.
The lumbosacral region has a number of unique characteristics. The spinal cord ends at the level of the 12th thoracic-1 lumbar vertebra. In the lumbosacral region there are fibers of the spinal nerves, which are gathered in a bundle. The lumbar and sacral roots form the sciatic nerve.
The main feature of this section of the spine is the high load (dynamic and static), which he constantly experiences. This is why lumbar discs wear out earlier.
This disease is dangerous with its consequences:
- damage to the knee and pelvic joints;
- dysfunction of internal organs (problems with potency in men and reproductive organs in women);
- lumbago, sciatica and lumbosciatica;
- compression of the spinal cord, which leads to impaired reflexes;
- inflammation of the sciatic nerve.
Scientists are still unable to answer exactly what causes this disease. Or more precisely, which of the factors has the greatest influence on its development. Some researchers believe that lumbosacral osteochondrosis is the price a person pays for upright walking. In fact, this disease is not observed in animals.
The factors that cause this disease can be divided into external and internal. Here are the main reasons that cause it:
- serious spinal cord injury;
- flat steps;
- prolonged standing;
- posture disorders;
- sedentary way of life;
- unbalanced diet.
Who is at risk
No one is immune to this disease. Hereditary factors determine a greater or lesser predisposition to it. However, external factors and a person's lifestyle have a great influence on the likelihood of developing this disease.
Another cause of the disease is excessive exercise and injuries.
Proper nutrition is important to prevent osteochondrosis: food should contain all the necessary components, be rich in vitamins and trace elements.
Treatment can be surgical or conservative. If the disease is at the stage of the appearance of intervertebral hernias, then surgery is indispensable. Conservative treatment includes the following methods:
- drug therapy;
- physiotherapy and traction of the spine;
- massage and manual therapy;
- physiotherapy exercises.
Drug therapy includes anti-inflammatory drugs, painkillers, muscle spasm relievers and injection blockers. Chondroprotectors are also used, which reduce pain and promote the regeneration of damaged cartilage. In some cases, hormonal drugs are used.
Basic principles for prevention of lumbosacral osteochondrosis:
- prevention of excessive strain on the lower back;
- strengthening the muscles of the back;
- maintaining proper posture;
- physical activity;
- healthy diet;
- regulation of the rest regime;
- timely treatment of other diseases of the back.
There are many simple exercises that one can perform on one's own at home. They are used for both therapeutic and prophylactic purposes. Their main task is to strengthen the muscles of the back to partially unload the spine.
Therapeutic exercise is one of the main ways to treat osteochondrosis. Exercise helps strengthen muscles, which removes some of the strain on the spine. Improves blood circulation in tissues, including intervertebral discs. Therapeutic gymnastics helps to eliminate muscle tension, reduce pain.
Massage is an excellent remedy for lumbar osteochondrosis. Improves blood supply to tissues, reduces pain, relieves braces, strengthens the muscular corset.
Instead of an epilogue
Summarizing the above, it can be noted that this disease is a real "disease of the century" that threatens every modern man.
Lumbosacral osteochondrosis gives a person excruciating pain, it can turn into a person with disabilities. It is very difficult to treat this disease, especially in its advanced form.
The positive point is that it is in the power of each of us to avoid the development of osteochondrosis. All you have to do is take care of your spine: do not overload it, monitor your own weight, lead a healthy lifestyle, eat normally, avoid injuries.
If you start to notice the first symptoms of osteochondrosis, consult a doctor. In the initial stages, this disease is quite easy to treat. Take care of your spine so that even in old age the movements bring you joy, not discomfort.