Osteoarthritis of the lumbar spine


What is osteoarthritis ?


Osteoarthritis is chronic wear of the joint cartilage accompanied by an imbalance between the production and destruction of bone cells. Osteoarthritis is a complex phenomenon involving physical and metabolic factors. In a joint, the cartilage covers the end of the bone and helps to ensure joint mobility with minimum friction. The cells are replaced at the same rate as they are destroyed. The full mobility of the joint is thus preserved. When the cells are renewed more slowly than they are destroyed, and/or if physical stresses (impacts, repeated friction) are too severe, the metabolic balance of the joint is disrupted. Cartilage wear then develops, starting with cracks, which then gradually worsen to form genuine holes (ulcerations). The bone can be left completely bare in places and the bone surfaces are then in direct contact with one another.




The phenomenon tends to be a self-perpetuating process. It culminates in painful restriction of joint mobility, with the joint becoming increasingly stiff. Arthritic pain is triggered by use of the joint and relieved by rest. However, certain inflammatory forms are also painful at night. Osteoarthritis can affect any joint in the body, but it is most common in the knees, hands, spine and hips. It is promoted by physical factors, heredity, age or obesity.


What is osteoarthritis of the lumbar spine ?


Osteoarthritis of the lumbar spine is chronic wear between the lumbar vertebrae (at the level of the posterior joint apophyses), i.e. it is located at the bottom of the back. The wear and tear is usually the result of an abnormal posture (hyperlordosis or scoliosis) or a repeated incorrect position during sports activities or at work. The wear may also be related to degeneration of the intervertebral disc. Osteoarthritis of the lumbar spine usually affects the 5th lumbar vertebra (L5) since it is this part of the back that is subject to the greatest mechanical stresses. Pain is increased by movements and physical exercise. Friction between the vertebrae can cause temporary pain related to compression of nerves (sciatica, femoral neuralgia) or intervertebral discs (herniated disc). Osteoarthritis of the lumbar spine is the "backache" we hear about so often. It is the most common type of osteoarthritis. It is also called "lower back osteoarthritis" or "lumbosacral arthritis".


Orthopaedic treatment


An orthopaedic solution meets two objectives: it reduces pain and supports the back in the correct position. During acute episodes, wearing a standard or made-to-measure immobilising back brace or corset rests the muscles and holds the spine in the correct position. Following an acute episode or during work or leisure activities, wearing a lumbar support belt (LSB) increases awareness (prevents incorrect movements) and reduces stresses on the vertebrae. A lumbar support belt that fits your morphology properly will help you maintain your usual activities. A broad range of belts are available to fit your lifestyle. Contrary to preconceptions, wearing an LSB, even for prolonged periods, does not lead to any risk of muscle loss (abdominal and back muscles).






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