Lumbar osteochondrosis is a neurological disease of the spine that affects all ages in which degenerative-dystrophic lesions occur in the lumbar spine. They affect the intervertebral discs, articular cartilage, and bone tissue.
The cause of the disease is the severe 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 fairly complex disease that requires complex therapy under the supervision of an experienced professional.
Lumbosacral osteochondrosis is a degenerative-dystrophic disorder in the articular cartilage of the spinal cord located in the lumbar spine. In other words, this disease means the destruction of the discs between the vertebral bodies. The mobility of the vertebrae decreases, the distance between them decreases, and the compression of the nerve endings occurs.
The lumbosacral spine suffers more often than others because it falls under its maximum load. In 80% of patients who complain of back pain, doctors accurately diagnose osteochondrosis. The disease begins with the breakdown of glycoproteins in the connective tissue, these compounds provide flexibility. Intervertebral discs are the first to suffer from this process.
Each plate consists of a core and an outer annulus fibrosus. After the core dries, the disk loses its elastic properties, and the fibrous ring ruptures and separates. The core may fall out through the slots in the ring (a hernia is formed).
As a result of these processes, the load on the vertebrae increases significantly, and the body responds to this with a sharp increase in the formation of bone tissue at the site of the increased load.
Which vertebrae are affected
The lumbar region consists of five vertebrae: L1-L5, the fifth vertebra is connected to the sacrum. The plates between them are most commonly involved in osteochondrosis.
There are several types of lumbosacral osteochondrosis, which differ in the location of the vertebrae.
- Disease of the upper lumbar level (1, 2 and 3 vertebrae).
- Disease of the lower lumbar level (vertebrae 3, 4 and 5).
- Osteochondrosis of the sacrum (localized in the sacrum). This type of disease is very rare.
- The fusion of the bones of the sacrum and vertebrae.
Developmental stages of lumbosacral osteochondrosis
There are four stages of osteochondrosis in the lumbosacral region (sometimes three can be distinguished). Here they are:
- There are changes in the core and its position.
- The outer fibrous ring begins to decay.
- Once the ring breaks, the core falls out.
- The destructive processes affect the vertebrae, joints and ligaments.
In the first stage of lumbosacral osteochondrosis, a person feels some discomfort and pain in the lower back. It can be acute or painful. There are cramps in the muscles and blood vessels, problems with the functioning of the organs.
Spasms of the blood vessels in the lower extremities can lead to atherosclerosis, bladder dysfunction.
In the second stage, the back muscles were constantly tense due to the instability of the vertebrae. Patients complain of lower back fatigue, discomfort and insecurity.
In the third stage, the nucleus of the disc falls out of the fibrous ring and an intervertebral hernia is formed. Fragments of a dropped disc pinch nerve roots that innervate internal organs, muscles, and areas of skin. As a result, the sensitivity of an area changes, a burning sensation, numbness and loss of sensitivity may develop. Compression of nerves can lead to loss of motor function or muscle atrophy.
Depending on the area of the innervation violation, doctors can tell you exactly where the spine is damaged. If fragments of the disc fall into the spinal canal, the spinal cord is pinched. This often interferes with the function of the pelvic organs and the motor function of the lower extremities.
In the fourth stage, the disc is completely replaced with dense connective tissue. The supporting function of the spine is somewhat restored, the pain is slightly reduced, but its mobility and flexibility are lost.
The above stages are conditional because the development of the disease is very individual.
Symptoms: the body tells you
The symptoms can be divided into the main symptoms associated with spinal lesions and further those associated with nerve damage due to nerve entrapment.
- pain and numbness in the lower back. It may be temporary at first and may occur during physical exertion and exercise. They become permanent during development, they may be sharp or painful, and they may appear when you cough or sneeze;
- fatigue and depression;
- decreased sensitivity of the lower extremities;
- impaired mobility of the lower back;
- curvature of the spine, lordosis.
- sharp back pain;
- deterioration of reflexes;
- shooting in the lower extremities, lameness;
- muscle weakness;
- reduction in sweating;
- cold feeling in the legs.
Depending on the location of the osteochondrosis, pain can be seen in different parts of the body:
- 1-2 vertebrae damage - in the groin region;
- 3-4 lesions of the vertebrae - in the lower leg and thigh area;
- with the defeat of the 5th vertebra - in the sacrum, lower back.
How is lumbosacral osteochondrosis diagnosed?
The diagnosis begins with a detailed assessment of the patient. The doctor should listen carefully to the patient's complaints, determine the location and intensity of the pain, pay special attention to the side effects (loss of skin sensitivity, impaired motor function).
The physician should monitor the development of symptoms over time and analyze the nature and effectiveness of previous treatment (or self-medication). In addition, the physician should monitor the medical history and ask the patient about their lifestyle, working conditions, and previous illnesses.
Particular attention should be paid to posture, possible curvature of the spine. The movement of the patient and the degree of development of the muscles are remarkable.
The main diagnostic tool for lumbosacral osteochondrosis is radiography. MRI and computed tomography have been used successfully.
The lumbosacral region has many unique features. The spinal cord ends at the level of the 12th chest-1 lumbar vertebra. In the lumbosacral region, there are fibers in the spinal nerves that are collected 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) it experiences continuously. This is the reason why the lumbar discs wear out earlier.
Due to the dangerous consequences of this disease:
- damage to the knee and pelvic joints;
- internal organ dysfunction (potency problems in men and reproductive problems in women);
- lumbago, sciatica and lumboischialgia;
- compression of the spinal cord, leading to damage to the reflexes;
- inflammation of the sciatic nerve.
Scientists are still unable to answer exactly what causes this disease. Respectively, which of the factors has the greatest impact on its formation. Some researchers believe that lumbosacral osteochondrosis is the price a person pays to walk straight. In fact, this disease is not observed in animals.
The factors that cause the disease can be divided into external and internal groups. Here are the main reasons why:
- severe spinal cord injury;
- long-term employment;
- posture disorders;
- sedentary lifestyle;
- unbalanced diet.
Who is in danger
No one is free of this disease. Hereditary factors determine a greater or lesser tendency to do so. However, external factors and a person’s lifestyle greatly influence the likelihood of developing the disease.
Another cause of the disease is excessive exercise and injury.
Proper nutrition is important in preventing osteochondrosis: the food must contain all the necessary ingredients and be rich in vitamins and trace elements.
Treatment can be surgical or conservative. If the disease is in the stage of onset of intervertebral hernia, surgery is essential. Conservative treatment includes the following methods:
- drug therapy;
- physiotherapy and spinal traction;
- massage and manual therapy;
- physiotherapy exercises.
Drug therapy includes anti-inflammatory drugs, analgesics, muscle spasms, and injection blockers. Chondroprotectors are also used to reduce pain and help regenerate damaged cartilage. In some cases, hormonal medications are used.
Principles for the prevention of lumbosacral osteochondrosis:
- prevention of overload of the lower back;
- strengthening the muscles of the back;
- maintaining proper posture;
- physical activity;
- proper nutrition;
- regulation of rest time;
- timely treatment of other diseases of the back.
There are fairly simple exercises that a person can do on their own at home. It is used for both therapeutic and prophylactic purposes. Their main task is to strengthen the back muscles to partially relieve the spine.
Therapeutic practice is one of the main ways to treat osteochondrosis. The exercise helps to strengthen the muscles, which takes some of the load off the spine. Improves blood circulation in tissues, including intervertebral discs. Therapeutic practice helps to remove muscle tension, reduce pain.
Massage is an excellent treatment for lumbar osteochondrosis. It improves the blood supply to the tissues, reduces pain, relieves tightness, strengthens the muscle ligament.
Instead of an epilogue
Summarizing the above, it can be noted that this disease is a real "disease of the century" that threatens all modern people.
Lumbosacral osteochondrosis causes unbearable pain and can become disabled. It is very difficult to treat this disease, especially in its advanced form.
The positive is that we all have the power to avoid developing osteochondrosis. All you have to do is take care of your spine: don’t strain too much, pay attention to your own weight, lead a healthy lifestyle, eat normally, avoid injuries.
If you notice the first symptoms of osteochondrosis, see your doctor. In the initial stages, this disease is fairly easy to treat. Make sure your spine is pleasurable, not discomfort, even in old age.