Lumbar spine arthritis is a common cause of severe back pain. Degeneration of cartilages in one or multiple joints in the lumbar spine or osteoarthritis is the most common cause of lumbar arthritis. It usually affects the lumbar spine in older adults. In some cases, rheumatoid arthritis affects the lumbar spine, causing inflammation of the spinal joints.
Regardless of the underlying cause of arthritis, pain and stiffness of the lumbar spine joints limit movement, which in some cases may confine the lumbar spine arthritis patient to bed. Degeneration of lumbar spine joints cannot be reversed with medications. However, pain relief medications combined with physical therapy can treat pain and arrest progression of arthritis. Suppressing the activities of the inflammatory substances with appropriate drugs can reduce pain caused by inflammation of joints of the lumbar spine.
Options for Treating Lumbar Arthritis Pain
Mild chiropractic treatment that focuses on the lumbar spine helps to treat lumbar spine arthritis pain. The treatment involves spinal manipulation by applying sudden controlled manual force to the affected area of the spine. This helps to align the musculoskeletal structure of the spine and releases pressure from the lumbar spine, alleviating pain and reducing stiffness of the lumbar spine.
Physical Therapy and Exercises
Spinal exercises help to reduce lumbar spine arthritis pain. Exercises are an important component of any physical therapy or rehabilitation program. Stretching and strengthening the spine helps to improve mobility. The goal of spinal exercises is to strengthen the ligaments and muscles around the joint to reduce pressure on the lumbar spine joints affected by arthritis during movements and shift the weight to the adjoining muscles and ligaments.
Physical therapy also boosts circulation that helps to speed up the healing process. Bending backward and forward, low impact aerobic activities such as swimming small laps and walking are beneficial for people experiencing lumbar spine arthritis pain. Very light stretching workouts are also recommended for reducing back pain.
Pain Relief Medications
For fast relief from lumbar spine arthritis pain most people depend upon over-the-counter pain relief drugs. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can address arthritis pain regardless of the underlying cause of arthritis. Aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen are the most commonly used NSAIDs used for treating mild to moderate spine arthritis pain. They are considered safe when used in optimal doses for a limited period. Severe lumbar spine arthritis pain requires prescription pain relief NSAIDs of higher strength. NSAIDs are also available in the form of ointments that provide relief from pain when applied to the affected area.
Severe spinal arthritis pain that cannot be attenuated with conventional pain relief medications are treated with corticosteroids or opioids. To diminish the risk of adverse reactions of oral corticosteroids such as high blood sugar level, thinning of bones, increased risk of infections and weight gain, small doses of the medication are used for a limited period. Opioids should also be used for a short time to heal spinal arthritis pain.
Injecting steroid to the painful area of the lumbar spine provides prompt relief from spinal arthritis pain. Steroid injections are used only in case of severe pain that cannot be treated with NSAIDs.
Although injecting steroids directly to the painful area instead of taking it orally minimizes the risks of side effects of corticosteroids, steroid injections can cause serious side effects such as weakening of the spine if they are taken frequently.
Alternative medicines commonly used for treating spinal arthritis pain include acupuncture, yoga, acupressure and biofeedback. By stimulating the natural healing mechanism of the body, alternative medicines help to reduce arthritis pain.
When non-surgical procedures cannot reduce lumbar spine arthritis pain, surgical treatment remains the only option for providing relief from pain. Common surgical procedures used for treating spinal arthritis include decompression surgery and spinal fusion surgery.