Osteochondrosis of the lumbar spine: symptoms. How to treat lumbar osteochondrosis
Many people are faced with the diagnosis of osteochondrosis of the lumbar spine. Symptoms of this disease: constant pain in the lumbar region, as well as limited movement, loss of sensitivity, and so on. In any case, it should be understood that this disease, if untreated, can lead to a host of neurological complications. So what is disease? What are the first signs of it? What methods of treatment does modern medicine offer? This information will be useful to every reader.
What is osteochondrosis?
Osteochondrosis is a chronically progressive disease that is accompanied by degeneration of the connective and bone tissues of the spine. The process of pathological tissue changes begins in the intervertebral disc. This structure consists of an annulus fibrosus, within which a gel-like nucleus pulposus is located.
As a result of disruption of normal metabolism, the nucleus gradually dries out. Along with this, changes in the annulus fibrosus are also observed: tears and cracks form in the tissues, as a result of which the nucleus can go beyond. A similar process affects the condition of the vertebral bones, because the vertebrae have to withstand heavy loads. Thus, the process involves not only the intervertebral discs, but also the vertebrae, ligaments and intervertebral joints.
As a rule, the disease begins in adulthood or old age, although there are cases when the disease was 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 the normal metabolism and the presence of increased physical exertion. It should be noted that the degenerative process, as a rule, is triggered by several factors at once. Today, lumbar osteochondrosis is considered a multifactorial disease. Here are just the most common causes of degeneration.
- First of all, it is necessary to note the hereditary predisposition. The reason can be both some congenital anatomical features of the skeleton, and metabolic disorders, for example, improper metabolism of glycoproteins.
- Risk factors include flat feet, since with this pathology, the normal load on the spine is redistributed.
- In some cases, osteochondrosis develops against the background of spinal injuries.
- Static loads can also be attributed to risk factors. For example, standing for a long time or being in an uncomfortable position.
- Physical overstrain can also trigger a degenerative process, especially when it comes to professional athletes.
- Often, the process develops in people with obesity, since the spine, as well as the entire skeleton, lends itself to increased stress.
The severity of lumbar osteochondrosis
This disease develops gradually. Today, it is customary to distinguish four main degrees of osteochondrosis of the lumbar spine (some doctors distinguish three).
- At the first stage, there is a gradual change and movement of the nucleus pulposus within the intervertebral disc.
- Lumbar osteochondrosis of the 2nd degree is characterized by destruction of the annulus fibrosus.
- At the third stage, as a rule, a rupture of the annulus fibrosus is observed, as a result of which the nucleus pulposus moves beyond its limits, thus forming 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.
Osteochondrosis of the lumbar spine: symptoms and description of the first stage of the disease
This stage of the disease is accompanied by irritation of the nerve fibers that are located in the inter-articular ligaments and the annulus fibrosus. Therefore, the first sign of this disease is discomfort, stiffness and soreness in the lumbar spine. It is worth noting that the pain can be sharp and shooting (in medicine this symptom is called "lumbago") or, conversely, dull, but constant (lumbodynia).
It is worth noting that due to irritation of the nerve endings, pain can spread to other tissues, organs, or even organ systems. For example, if normal trophism and blood circulation in the ligaments and tendons are disturbed, so-called enteropathies may appear, in which the connective tissues change and become denser at the points of attachment to the bones.
Since lumbosacral osteochondrosis is quite often diagnosed in patients, the pain can also spread to the lower spine and even give to the lower limb. 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 osteochondrosis of the lumbar spine appear. The appearance of some instability between the vertebral ligaments is observed, as a result of which the mobility of the vertebrae increases.
In turn, such a change leads to the emergence of persistent and almost constant tension in the muscles of the lower back. Patients complain not only of pain and discomfort, but also of constant muscle fatigue.
The clinical picture in the third degree of the disease
What are the signs in this case accompanied by osteochondrosis of the lumbar spine? Symptoms during this period may 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 those zones that are innervated by the compressed nerve is disturbed in patients. As a rule, there is a slight numbness and tingling sensation at first, but if left untreated, a complete loss of sensation can occur. This is often accompanied by a deterioration in motor activity, gradual muscle 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 pain radiates to the gastrocnemius muscle, then 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 bundle of roots, which 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.
Osteochondrosis of the lumbar spine: symptoms of the fourth stage
At this stage, all joints and intervertebral ligaments are already involved in the process. Moreover, fibrosis of the intervertebral disc is observed, in which all its elements are replaced by dense scar tissue.
By the way, at this time the condition of patients may improve. But the mobility of the spine, lower back and legs is severely limited.
Modern diagnostic methods
If you have constant pain and discomfort in the lower back, you should see a doctor. Only a specialist can determine lumbar osteochondrosis of the spine. Diagnostics in this case includes several stages.
To begin with, the doctor will conduct a general examination, check reflexes, the presence of radicular syndromes, as well as the degree of mobility, and so on. It is necessary to collect a complete history, 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 in this case are of no particular importance. Therefore, the patient is primarily referred for spinal x-ray. X-rays allow you to see the narrowing of the intervertebral fissure, as well as determine the presence of bone growths and seals on the surface of the vertebra.
For a more accurate assessment of the patient's condition, magnetic resonance imaging and computed tomography are also carried out, these studies give a clearer picture of degenerative changes in the spine.
What are the complications associated with the disease?
In no case should this disease be perceived as something frivolous. In the absence of timely therapy, the patient will have to face not only pain and limited mobility, but also with more serious consequences.
In particular, the degeneration of the intervertebral discs leads to the formation of a hernia. In addition, 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 paralysis of the lower limbs and muscle atrophy. Changes in osteochondrosis are almost irreversible, so it is extremely important to start therapy on time.
Medication 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 understood that the treatment of osteochondrosis is a long and complex process.
Of course, patients are prescribed certain medications. The most commonly used for this disease are presented below.
- At the initial stages, chondroprotectors are used for treatment - drugs that inhibit the process of degeneration of cartilaginous tissues.
- In the second stage, the treatment of lumbosacral osteochondrosis may include the use of anti-inflammatory drugs that eliminate pain and inflammation.
- Muscle spasm is eliminated with the help of muscle relaxants.
- Local anesthetics are used for severe pain. For example, pain is blocked with injections of pain relievers.
- Elderly patients are advised to take multivitamin complexes.
- The 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 of lumbosacral osteochondrosis includes other measures. In particular, therapeutic massage has a positive effect. Regular sessions help eliminate muscle spasms and improve blood circulation in the tissues.
Gymnastics for lumbar osteochondrosis is also extremely important. The set of exercises is selected by the attending physician or physiotherapist. Physical education helps to restore mobility, improve blood circulation, and eliminate soreness. Naturally, classes should be regular. On the other hand, in the presence of acute pain, physical activity is contraindicated; during this period, the patient needs strict bed rest and wearing a special corset that relieves stress from the spine.
In addition, some physiotherapy methods are used. In particular, ultraviolet radiation (eliminates spasm and pain), magnetotherapy, laser therapy, electrophoresis (helps to relieve inflammation and soreness), as well as balneotherapy are considered quite effective.
When is surgery necessary?
Unfortunately, conservative treatment is by no means possible in all cases, especially if the patient is diagnosed with an intervertebral hernia. Indications for surgical intervention are also "tail bone" syndrome, as well as strong compression of the nerve roots.
Today, there are many techniques for performing such operations. Most often, microsurgical as well as endoscopic procedures are performed to relieve pressure on blood vessels and nerves.