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Lumbar Spondylosis Symptoms and Treatment Options

Lumbar Spondylosis: Symptoms and Treatment Options

Lumbar spondylosis is a common spinal condition that affects the lower back, leading to discomfort and pain, often associated with the aging process. As the body ages, the spine undergoes natural wear and tear, resulting in degenerative changes that can significantly impact daily activities. This blog looks into what lumbar spondylosis is, the symptoms, diagnosis, and various treatment options for this condition, providing valuable insights for those affected by this condition.

What is Lumbar Spondylosis?

Lumbar spondylosis refers to the degeneration of the lumbar spine, which includes the vertebral bodies, intervertebral discs, and facet joints. This condition is part of the natural degenerative process and is often associated with spinal osteoarthritis. Over time, the spinal discs lose moisture and elasticity, leading to dehydrated discs, disc thinning, and the formation of lumbar osteophytes, also known as bone spurs. These changes can affect the spinal canal, potentially causing spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spinal canal that can compress spinal nerves and nerve roots, leading to pain and neurologic symptoms.

What are the Symptoms of Lumbar Spondylosis?

Symptoms of lumbar spondylosis can vary widely among individuals but commonly include:

  • Lower back pain: A dull ache or stiffness in the lumbar region, often worsening with physical activities.
  • Stiffness: Particularly after periods of inactivity or in the morning.
  • Pain radiating to the buttocks or thighs: Known as radicular pain, which can extend down the legs, causing leg pain.
  • Numbness or tingling in the legs: Resulting from nerve compression within the spinal column.
  • Weakness in the lower extremities: Affecting mobility and balance.
  • Limited range of motion: In the lower back due to stiffness and pain in the disk spaces.
  • Muscle spasms: Occurring in the back muscles.
  • Chronic pain: Persistent discomfort that can significantly affect quality of life.
  • Bowel control issues: In severe cases, due to nerve compression.

The clinical presentation of lumbar spondylosis often involves a comprehensive clinical diagnosis based on a patient’s history of symptoms and medical history. Additionally, genetic factors and the extent of arthritis in the spinal bone and disk spaces may influence the severity of symptoms.

Research indicates that vertebral osteophytes are highly prevalent, with about 84% of men and 74% of women developing these bony growths, particularly at the T9-10 and L3 vertebral levels. The occurrence of these osteophytes appears to be similar between sexes, despite varying reports on the sex ratio.

It’s important to note that common symptoms can also overlap with other conditions like cervical spondylosis, which affects the neck and can cause neck pain. Identifying these risk factors and the history of symptoms is crucial for an accurate clinical diagnosis and effective management of lumbar spondylosis.

Diagnosing Lumbar Spondylosis

Lumbar Spondylosis Symptoms and Treatment Options

Physical Examination

A thorough physical exam by a healthcare provider is the first step in diagnosing lumbar spondylosis. The examination typically includes:

  • Assessing the range of motion: To check for flexibility and stiffness in the lower back.
  • Checking for pain or tenderness: Along the spine and lumbar vertebra.
  • Evaluating muscle strength and reflexes: To detect any signs of nerve involvement.
  • Observing gait and posture: To identify any abnormalities in spine motion and alignment.

Imaging Tests

To confirm the diagnosis, imaging tests such as X-rays, MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), or CT (Computed Tomography) scans are often used. These tests help visualize the extent of degenerative changes, including:

  • Disc space narrowing: Due to dehydrated discs.
  • Bony growths: Such as vertebral osteophytes.
  • Spinal stenosis: Narrowing of the spinal canal.
  • Facet joint degeneration: Indicative of spinal osteoarthritis.
  • Disc herniations: Bulging or ruptured intervertebral disks.

Who Gets Lumbar Spondylosis?

Aging Population

Lumbar spondylosis is most commonly seen in the adult population, particularly individuals over the age of 50, due to the natural degenerative process of the spine. While lumbar spondylosis is common among individuals over 40, it is not exclusive to older adults. Approximately 3% of people aged 20-29 also exhibit signs of this spinal condition.

By the age of 60, the majority of individuals show evidence of cervical spondylosis detectable via X-ray. Being over 40 years old is a significant risk factor for developing lumbar spondylosis, underscoring the impact of aging on spinal health.

Individuals with Degenerative Changes

People with pre-existing degenerative changes in the spine, such as those with a history of degenerative disc disease or previous spinal injuries, are more susceptible to developing lumbar spondylosis.

People with High Rates of Asymptomatic Degeneration

Some individuals may experience high rates of asymptomatic degeneration, meaning they have degenerative changes in the spine without noticeable symptoms, but are at higher risk of developing lumbar spondylosis over time.


Research suggests that both men and women are equally likely to develop lumbar spondylosis, although the onset may occur earlier in men.

Athletes and Gymnasts

Athletes and gymnasts who engage in activities that place repetitive stress on the spine, such as high-impact sports or gymnastics, are at an increased risk of developing lumbar spondylosis and related conditions like stress fractures.

The  prevalence of radiographic lumbar spondylosis shows that 76.7% of individuals have a significant degree of the condition, 38.8% have a more advanced stage, and 20.0% experience low back pain. Age is strongly correlated with higher grades of radiographic lumbar spondylosis and associated low back pain. Additionally, a higher BMI is linked to moderate lumbar spondylosis, though not significantly with more advanced stages.

How is Spondylosis Different from Spondylolisthesis?

While lumbar spondylosis involves the degeneration of the spine, spondylolisthesis is a condition where one vertebra slips forward over the one below it. This slippage can lead to spinal instability and increased nerve compression. Types of spondylolisthesis include:

  • Isthmic Spondylolisthesis: Caused by a stress fracture in the pars interarticularis.
  • Degenerative Spondylolisthesis: Due to age-related changes in the spine.
  • Congenital Spondylolisthesis: Present at birth.
  • Type of Spondylolisthesis: Categorized based on the underlying cause.

Both conditions can coexist, but they have different underlying mechanisms and treatment approaches.

Treatments for Lumbar Spondylosis

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is a cornerstone of lumbar spondylosis treatment. It helps improve flexibility, strengthen abdominal muscles, and reduce pain. A physical therapist can design a personalized exercise program to address specific needs, including daily exercises that enhance spine motion and reduce stiffness.

Pain Relief Medications or Anti-inflammatory Drugs

Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help manage lumbar spondylosis symptoms by reducing pain and inflammation. Muscle relaxants may also be prescribed to alleviate muscle spasms.

Lifestyle Modifications

Making lifestyle changes, such as maintaining a healthy weight, practicing good posture, and avoiding activities that strain the back, can significantly improve symptoms and prevent further degeneration.

Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic care involves spinal manipulation and adjustments to relieve pain and improve function. Many individuals find relief through regular chiropractic treatments, which can help restore proper alignment and mobility in the spine.

Light Exercises

Engaging in light exercises, such as walking, swimming, or yoga, can help keep the spine flexible and reduce stiffness. These activities promote overall spinal health without putting excessive strain on the back.

Steroid Injections

For individuals with severe pain, epidural steroid injections can provide temporary relief by reducing inflammation around the affected area. These injections are typically used when other treatments have not provided sufficient relief.


In severe cases where conservative treatments fail to alleviate symptoms, surgery may be considered. Surgical options include spinal decompression or spinal fusion to stabilize the spine and relieve nerve compression. Surgical treatment is often a last resort when nonsurgical treatment approaches do not provide adequate relief.

Are There Any Dietary Supplements That Can Help Treat or Prevent Spondylosis?

Lumbar Spondylosis Symptoms and Treatment Options

Certain dietary supplements, such as glucosamine, chondroitin, and omega-3 fatty acids, have been suggested to support joint health and reduce inflammation. These supplements may help maintain the health of intervertebral discs and facet joints, potentially slowing the degenerative process. However, the efficacy of these supplements varies, and it is essential to consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new supplement regimen.


Lumbar spondylosis is a common condition that can cause significant discomfort and impact daily life. Understanding the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options can help individuals manage their condition effectively. By incorporating a combination of physical therapy, medication, lifestyle modifications, and possibly other treatments, those affected by lumbar spondylosis can find relief and improve their quality of life.

At Austin Manual Therapy Associates, we specialize in providing top-notch physical therapy services to help you manage and alleviate the symptoms of spondylosis. Our experienced team is dedicated to offering personalized treatment plans that address your specific needs, ensuring effective relief from back pain and improving your overall quality of life. With a focus on manual therapy techniques and patient education, we empower you to regain mobility, reduce discomfort, and achieve lasting wellness.


What does lumbar spondylosis pain feel like?

Lumbar spondylosis pain is typically described as a dull ache or stiffness in the lower back. It can also radiate to the buttocks or legs, sometimes accompanied by numbness or tingling. The pain can worsen with activity and improve with rest.

Can I live a normal life with lumbar spondylosis?

Yes, many individuals with lumbar spondylosis can lead normal lives by managing their symptoms through appropriate treatments and lifestyle changes. Although you might wonder, “Is lumbar spondylosis serious?”, with effective treatments, most people can maintain a good quality of life.

What should be avoided in lumbar spondylosis?

Individuals with lumbar spondylosis should avoid activities that strain the lower back, such as heavy lifting, prolonged sitting, and high-impact exercises. Maintaining good posture, practicing spine-friendly activities, and avoiding movements that exacerbate pain can help manage symptoms. Cold therapy can also be useful for short-term pain relief.