Lumbar osteochondrosis is a neurological disease of the spine that affects people of all ages, with degenerative-dystrophic changes in the spine. They affect the intervertebral discs, articular cartilage, and bone tissue.
The cause of the disease is the severe stress experienced by the lower back on a daily basis - walking, sitting, lifting weights. It is very important to start treatment for osteochondrosis as early as possible to prevent possible complications. Lumbar osteochondrosis is a very complex disease that requires complex therapy under the supervision of an experienced specialist.
Lumbosacral osteochondrosis is a degenerative-dystrophic disorder of the articular cartilage of the spine located in the spine. In other words, the disease destroys the cartilaginous discs between the vertebral bodies. The mobility of the vertebrae decreases, the distance between them decreases, and the nerve endings are compressed.
The lumbar-sacral spine suffers more often than others because the maximum load falls on it. In 80% of patients with low back pain, doctors accurately diagnose osteochondrosis. The disease begins with the breakdown of glycoproteins in the connective tissue, which are the compounds that give it elasticity. The intervertebral discs first suffer from this process.
Each disc consists of a nucleus and an external annulus fibrosus. After the core dries, the disc loses its elastic properties and the fibrous ring cracks and breaks. The nucleus can fall through the gaps 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 it with a sharp increase in the formation of bone tissue in areas of increasing load.
Which vertebrae are affected
The lumbar region consists of five vertebrae: L1-L5, the fifth vertebra is connected to the sacrum. The discs between them are most affected by osteochondrosis.
There are several types of lumbosacral osteochondrosis, which differ in the location of the vertebrae.
- Upper spine disease (vertebrae 1, 2 and 3).
- Low back disease (3, 4 and 5 vertebrae).
- Osteochondrosis of the sacrum (localized in the sacral bones). This type of disease is very rare.
- The combination of sacrum and vertebral bones.
Stages of development of lumbosacral osteochondrosis
There are four stages (sometimes three different) of lumbar-sacral osteochondrosis. Here they are:
- There are changes in the nucleus and its position.
- The destruction of the outer fibrous ring begins.
- After the ring is broken, the nucleus falls off.
- Destructive processes affect the vertebrae, joints and ligaments.
In the first stage of lumbosacral osteochondrosis, a person feels a certain discomfort and pain in the lumbar region. It can be sharp or painful in nature. There are spasms of muscles and blood vessels, problems with the functioning of organs.
Vascular spasms of the lower extremities can lead to atherosclerosis, bladder dysfunction.
In the second stage, due to instability of the vertebrae, the back muscles are constantly tense. Patients complain of low back fatigue, anxiety, and uncertainty.
In the third stage, the disc nucleus falls out of the fibrous ring and an intervertebral hernia forms. Fragments of the fallen disc compress the nerve roots that innervate the internal organs, muscles, and skin areas. As a result, there is a change in the sensitivity of a particular area, burning sensation, numbness and loss of sensitivity may develop. Nerve compression can cause loss of motor function or muscle atrophy.
Depending on the area of innervation, doctors can tell exactly where the spinal cord is damaged. If pieces of the disc fall into the spinal canal, the spinal cord is compressed. It often impairs the function of the pelvic organs and motor function of the lower extremities.
In the fourth stage, the disc tissue is completely replaced by dense connective tissue. There is a slight restoration of the supporting function of the spine, the pain is slightly reduced, but it loses its mobility and elasticity.
The above stages are conditional, because the development of the disease is very individual.
Symptoms: The body will tell
Symptoms can be divided into appendages associated with impaired innervation due to changes in the spinal cord and the main and compressed nerves.
- pain and numbness in the lower back. At first it may be temporary and may manifest itself during physical exertion and movement. As they develop, they become persistent, can be sharp or painful, and even appear during coughing or sneezing;
- fatigue and depression;
- decreased sensitivity of the lower extremities;
- impaired mobility of the lower back;
- curvature of the spine, lordosis.
- acute back pain;
- worsening of reflexes;
- shooting in the lower extremities, lameness;
- muscle weakness;
- reduction of sweating;
- feeling of coldness in the legs.
Depending on the localization of osteochondrosis, pain is observed in different parts of the body:
- With damage to 1-2 vertebrae - in the inguinal region;
- With damage to 3-4 vertebrae - in the lower leg and thigh;
- With the defeat of the 5th vertebra - in the sacrum, lower back.
How is lumbosacral osteochondrosis diagnosed?
Diagnosis begins with a detailed survey of the patient. The doctor should listen carefully to the patient's complaints, study the localization and intensity of pain, pay special attention to side effects (loss of skin sensitivity, impaired motor function).
The physician should monitor the development of symptoms over time, analyze the nature and effectiveness of previous treatment (or self-medication). The doctor should also pay attention to the history, ask the patient about his lifestyle, working conditions, past illnesses.
Particular attention should be paid to posture, possible curvature of the spine. How the patient moves and the degree of muscle development are noteworthy.
The main diagnostic tool for lumbosacral osteochondrosis is radiography. MRI and computed tomography are successfully used.
The lumbar-sacral region has a number of unique features. The spinal cord ends at the level of the 12th thoracic-1 lumbar vertebrae. In the lumbar-sacral region, there are clusters of spinal nerve fibers. The lumbar and sacral roots form the sciatic nerve.
The main feature of this part of the spine is the large load it is constantly experiencing (dynamic and static). For this reason, lumbar discs wear out faster.
This disease is dangerous due to its consequences:
- knee and pelvic joint injuries;
- internal organ dysfunction (potential in men and problems with reproductive organs in women);
- lumbago, sciatica and lumboischialgia;
- compression of the spinal cord, causing reflex disorders;
- inflammation of the sciatic nerve.
Scientists are still unable to answer the cause of the disease. Rather, which of the factors has the greatest impact on its development. Some researchers believe that lumbosacral osteochondrosis is the price a person pays for walking upright. In fact, the disease is not observed in animals.
The factors that cause this disease can be divided into external and internal. The main reasons for this are:
- severe spinal cord injury;
- straight legs;
- stand for a long time;
- posture disorders;
- sedentary lifestyle;
- excess body weight;
- unbalanced diet.
Who is at risk
No one is immune to this disease. Hereditary factors determine his or her predisposition to it more or less. However, external factors and a person's lifestyle have a great impact on the likelihood of developing this disease.
Another cause of the disease is excessive exercise and injury.
Proper nutrition is important for the prevention of osteochondrosis: food should contain all the necessary components and be rich in vitamins and trace elements.
Treatment can be surgical or conservative. If the disease is at the stage of appearance of intervertebral hernias, surgical intervention is necessary. Conservative treatment includes the following methods:
- drug treatment;
- physiotherapy and spinal traction;
- massage and manual therapy;
- physiotherapy exercises.
Drug therapy includes anti-inflammatory drugs, painkillers, muscle spasms, and injection blockers. Chondroprotectors are also used, reduce pain, promote the recovery of damaged cartilage formations. In some cases, hormonal drugs are used.
Basic principles of prevention of lumbosacral osteochondrosis:
- prevention of overload in the lower back;
- strengthening the back muscles;
- maintaining proper posture;
- physical activity;
- proper nutrition;
- regulation of rest regime;
- timely treatment of other diseases of the back.
There are very simple exercises that a person can do independently at home. They are used for both therapeutic and prophylactic purposes. Their main task is to strengthen the back muscles to partially relieve the load on the spine.
Therapeutic exercise is one of the main methods of treating osteochondrosis. Exercise helps to strengthen the muscles, which removes part of the load from the spine. Improves blood circulation in tissues, including intervertebral discs. Therapeutic exercise helps to relieve muscle tension and reduce pain.
Massage is an excellent treatment for lumbar osteochondrosis. Improves blood supply to tissues, reduces pain, relieves cramps, strengthens the muscle corset.
Instead of an epilogue
Summarizing the above, it can be said that this disease is a real "disease of the century" that threatens any modern man.
Lumbosacral osteochondrosis causes unbearable pain to a person and can turn into a disabled person. It is very difficult to treat this disease, especially in its advanced form.
On the positive side, it is the responsibility of each of us to prevent the development of osteochondrosis. All you need to do is take care of your spine: do not overdo it, pay attention to your weight, lead a healthy lifestyle, eat normally, avoid injuries.
If you begin to see the first signs of osteochondrosis, consult a doctor. In the early stages, the disease is very easily treated. Take care of your spine so that in old age such actions bring you joy, not anxiety.