Lumbar spine osteochondrosis: symptoms. How to treat lumbar osteochondrosis
Many people are faced with a diagnosis of lumbar spine osteochondrosis. Symptoms of this disease: constant pain in the lumbar spine, as well as restricted mobility, loss of sensitivity, etc. In any case, it is useful to understand that if left untreated, this disease can lead to a wide variety of neurological complications. What is sicknessWhat are the first signs? What treatment methods does modern medicine offer? This information is useful to any reader.
What is osteochondrosis?
Osteochondrosis is a chronically progressive disease that is associated with degeneration of connective and bone tissue in the spine. The process of pathological tissue changes begins in the intervertebral disc. This structure consists of an annulus fibrosus in which a gel-like nucleus pulposus is located.
As a result of a disruption in normal metabolism, the nucleus gradually dries out. Changes in the annulus fibrosus are also observed: tears and tears form in the tissue, which means that the core can extend beyond it. A similar process affects the condition of the vertebral bones, as the vertebrae have to withstand heavy loads. So the process affects not only the intervertebral discs, but also the vertebrae, ligaments and intervertebral joints.
As a rule, the disease begins in adulthood or in old age, although there are cases when the disease has been diagnosed in adolescents. By the way, lumbar osteochondrosis is the most common form of this disease.
The reasons for the development of the disease
This pathology develops with a violation of normal metabolism and the presence of increased physical exertion. It is worth noting that the degenerative process is usually triggered by several factors at the same time. Lumbar osteochondrosis is now viewed as a multifactorial disease. Here are just the most common causes of degeneration.
- First of all, the hereditary predisposition has to be considered. The reason can be both some congenital anatomical features of the skeleton and metabolic disorders, for example, incorrect metabolism of glycoproteins.
- Risk factors include flat feet, as this pathology redistributes the normal load on the spine.
- In some cases, osteochondrosis develops against the background of spinal injuries.
- Static stress can also be attributed to risk factors. For example, standing for a long time or being in an uncomfortable position.
- Physical overload can also trigger a degenerative process, especially in professional athletes.
- Often times, the process develops in people with obesity, since both the spine and the entire skeleton are susceptible to increased stress.
The severity of lumbar osteochondrosis
This disease develops gradually. Nowadays it is customary to distinguish four main degrees of lumbar spine osteochondrosis (some doctors distinguish three).
- In the first stage there is a gradual change and movement of the nucleus pulposus within the intervertebral disc.
- The lumbar osteochondrosis of the 2nd degree is characterized by the destruction of the annulus fibrosus.
- In the third stage, a rupture of the annulus fibrosus is usually observed, causing the nucleus pulposus to move beyond its limits and thus form a herniated disc.
- The fourth stage of the disease is accompanied by degeneration of the vertebrae, ligaments and joints, as a result of which spondyloarthrosis develops.
Lumbar spine osteochondrosis: symptoms and description of the first stage of the disease
This stage of the disease is accompanied by irritation of the nerve fibers located in the interarticular ligaments and the annulus fibrosus. Therefore, the first sign of this disease is discomfort, stiffness and pain in the lumbar spine. It is worth noting that the pain can be sharp and stabbing (in medicine this symptom is called "lumbago") or, conversely, dull but constant (lumbodynia).
It's worth noting that due to irritation of the nerve endings, pain can spread to other tissues, organs, or even organ systems. For example, if the normal trophism and blood flow to the ligaments and tendons are disturbed, so-called enteropathies are possible, in which the connective tissue changes and becomes denser at the points of attachment to the bones.
Since lumbosacral osteochondrosis is often diagnosed in patients, the pain can also spread to the lower spine and even lower extremities. The compression of nerve endings and small vessels leads to the development of disorders in the tissues of the lower extremities.
The second degree of osteochondrosis and its signs
At this stage, some other signs of lumbar spine osteochondrosis appear. The occurrence of some instability between the vertebral ligaments is observed, as a result of which the mobility of the vertebrae increases.
Such a change, in turn, leads to the creation of sustained and almost constant tension in the muscles of the lower back. The patients complain not only of pain and discomfort, but also of constant muscle fatigue.
The clinical picture in the third degree of disease
In this case, what are the signs of lumbar osteochondrosis? Symptoms during this period can vary. The fact is that the damaged intervertebral discs begin to squeeze the nerve roots, which is accompanied by the so-called "radicular syndromes".
In this case, the sensitivity of the zones innervated by the compressed nerve is disturbed in patients. There is usually a slight numbness and tingling sensation at first, but if left untreated, there may be a complete loss of sensation. This is often associated with deterioration in motor activity, gradual muscular atrophy, and sometimes complete paralysis.
By the way, based on the localization of such changes, it can be assumed which vertebrae are affected by the disease. For example, if a change or loss of sensitivity is observed in the heel and the pain is radiating to the gastrocnemius muscle, it is likely that the patient has lumbosacral osteochondrosis.
In some patients, the so-called "cauda equina syndrome" is observed, which is associated with compression of the root bundle that runs in the lumbar and sacral spine. This condition is characterized by violations of the motor function of the legs, as well as various disorders of the pelvic organs.
Lumbar spine osteochondrosis: symptoms of the fourth stage
At this point, all joints and intermediate ligaments are already involved in the process. In addition, fibrosis of the intervertebral disc is observed, in which all its elements are replaced by dense scar tissue.
By the way, at this time, patients' condition may improve. However, the mobility of the spine, lower back and legs is severely restricted.
Modern diagnostic methods
If you have persistent lower back pain and discomfort, you should see a doctor. Only a specialist can determine lumbar osteochondrosis of the spine. The diagnosis in this case comprises several stages.
First of all, the doctor conducts a general examination, checking the reflexes, the presence of radicular syndromes, as well as the degree of mobility and so on. It is necessary to collect a complete anamnesis, since in this case it is important not only to make a diagnosis, but also to determine the cause of the development of the degenerative process.
Laboratory diagnostic methods are not particularly important in this case. Therefore, the patient is referred mainly for a spinal x-ray. With X-rays, you can see the narrowing of the intervertebral fissure and determine the presence of bone growth and seals on the surface of the vertebra.
Magnetic resonance imaging and computed tomography are also performed to more accurately assess the patient's condition. These studies provide a clearer picture of the degenerative changes in the spine.
What complications are associated with the disease?
In no case should this disease be perceived as something frivolous. Without timely therapy, the patient must not only be exposed to pain and reduced mobility, but also have more serious consequences.
In particular, the degeneration of the intervertebral discs leads to the formation of an inguinal hernia. In addition, the compression of the nerve roots affects the work of many organs, including the urinary, reproductive, and sometimes digestive systems. In some cases, the disease leads to complete lower extremity paralysis and muscular atrophy. Changes in osteochondrosis are almost irreversible, so it is extremely important to start therapy on time.
Medicines for osteochondrosis
Only a doctor knows how to treat lumbar osteochondrosis. With such a disease, therapy is selected individually, as it depends on many factors, including the individual characteristics of the patient's body. In any case, it should be clear that the treatment of osteochondrosis is a long and complex process.
Of course, certain drugs are prescribed to patients. The most commonly used for this disease are listed below.
- At the initial stage, chondroprotectors are used for treatment - drugs that inhibit the process of degeneration of cartilage tissues.
- In the second stage, treatment for lumbosacral osteochondrosis may include the use of anti-inflammatory drugs that remove pain and inflammation.
- Muscle spasms are relieved with the help of muscle relaxants.
- Local anesthetics are used for severe pain. For example, the pain is blocked by injections of pain relievers.
- Elderly patients are recommended to take multivitamin complexes.
- Therapy also includes vasodilating drugs that improve blood circulation and tissue trophism.
Other methods of conservative treatment
Of course, it is impossible to get rid of the disease with the help of drugs alone. Treatment for lumbosacral osteochondrosis includes other measures. The therapeutic massage in particular has a positive effect. Regular sessions will help get rid of muscle spasms and improve blood flow to the tissues.
Gymnastics for lumbar osteochondrosis is also extremely important. The exercises are selected by the attending physician or physiotherapist. Exercise helps restore mobility, improve blood circulation, and relieve pain. Of course, classes should be regular. On the other hand, physical activity is contraindicated in acute pain. During this time, the patient needs strict bed rest and a special corset that relieves the spine.
In addition, some physiotherapeutic methods are used. In particular, ultraviolet radiation (relieves cramps and pain), magnetotherapy, laser therapy, electrophoresis (helps with inflammation and pain), and balneotherapy are considered to be quite effective.
When is an operation necessary?
Unfortunately, conservative treatment is by no means possible in all cases, especially if the patient is diagnosed with an intervertebral hernia. "Tail bone syndrome" and severe compression of the nerve roots are also indications for surgical intervention.
There are many techniques available today for performing such operations. Most commonly, both microsurgical and endoscopic procedures are performed to relieve pressure on blood vessels and nerves.