What is degenerative osteoarthritis of the lower spine?

By: HowStuffWorks.com Contributors

The most common complaint regarding osteoarthritis of the lower spine, also known as lumbosacral arthritis, is frequent and unrelenting lower back pain. In general, osteoarthritis is the result of deterioration of the cartilage in your joints. Cartilage deterioration occurs due to years of wear and tear, which results in your bones rubbing together, causing joint pain and swelling [source: NIAMS]. Osteoarthritis can occur in all the joints throughout your body. Osteoarthritis of the spine, in particular, is the deterioration of cartilage between the facet joints or discs in your spine [source: Ray].

The friction between your spinal discs causes inflammation and pain. Typically, pain related to osteoarthritis of the lower spine is also felt in the neck region [source: NIAMS]. Other common symptoms of osteoarthritis of the lower spine include decreased mobility and flexibility of the back. Bone spurs, which are small bone growths on the spine, can also cause pitching of spinal nerves, known as spinal stenosis [source: Ray]. This nerve pitching can result in numbness, tingling and a weakening sensation in the legs [source: NIAMS]. Keep in mind that these symptoms are common for a variety of different spine-related health concerns, so it's best to consult your doctor if you experience constant back pain or back stiffness.


It's also important to note that mild osteoarthritis of the lower spine is a natural part of aging. Almost everyone in older age experiences some lower back pain as a result of osteoarthritis. Sometimes, these mild symptoms are little cause for concern. In fact, you start developing early signs of osteoarthritis of the spine in your thirties. Other risk factors, besides age, include gender (men are more likely to have osteoarthritis before 45, women are more likely to experience osteoarthritis after 45), genetics, obesity and other preexisting conditions, such as diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis [source: Ray].