Lumbar arthritis: What you need to know

Lumbar arthritis: What you need to know

Lumbar arthritis is a symptom of spine-affecting arthritis. Osteoarthritis is the most common cause of lumbar Arthritis.

It is also known as spinal arthritis and is the product of degenerative changes in osteoarthritis ( OA) and inflammation in the lowest lumbar spine joints.

The condition progressively develops in older adults and is often associated with spinal degeneration.

According to a 2013 report in Current Rheumatology Reports, lumbar arthritis is very common , affecting maybe 40 to 85 percent of people in the United States.

While OA is thought to be a natural part of ageing, lumbar arthritis’ pain and stiffness can reduce a person’s ability to perform even the simplest tasks, especially those that require bending and stretching.

Important facts about lumbar arthritis:

  • Lumbar arthritis involves the facet joints and disc spaces in the back part of the spine.
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can provide pain relief and help reduce inflammation.
  • Lumbar arthritis is a chronic symptom of arthritis. Most types of arthritis can be long lasting.


Arthritis pain in the lower back, or lumbar region, is known as lumbar arthritis.

The pain of lumbar arthritis is the result of movement and inactivity.

It can get worse after prolonged periods of standing or sitting upright. Bending sideways or backwards can lead to pain, too.

Pain can be felt from the center of the lower back, and can spread to the pelvic area or buttocks sides. Pain can get into the thighs as well but rarely spreads to the knees.

Lumbar arthritis can also cause lower back muscle spasms, joint creaking, stiffness, and a reduced range of motion.

Symptoms usually develop slowly and at first, they are not noticeable. Any quick movement, twisting, and backward movement in the lower back, however, can cause injury to the lumbar area and symptoms for people with that condition.

Causes and risk factors

Specific arthritic conditions result from lumbar arthritis. The most common reason for symptoms of lumbar arthritis is OA with occasional involvement of other types.

Osteoarthritis (OA)

Persistent OA damage in the facet joints of the spine eventually leads to wear away of those joints. The result is that the spine bones start grinding and pushing together with movement.

OA inflammation could be caused by external factors including poor diet, overweight and genetics.

Psoriatic arthritis (PsA)

Psoraitic arthritis is most common in people who already have the skin condition psoriasis.
Psoraitic arthritis is most common in people who already have the skin condition psoriasis.

Lumbar arthritis has been linked with PsA, too. PsA typically affects people with psoriasis but in some instances the condition appears on its own.

Low back pain is a PsA symptom. Up to 20 percent of people with this condition are involved in the spine, according to the Arthritis Foundation. In some cases, bony overgrowth may cause the vertebrae to fuse together, causing movement to cause stiffness and pain.


This form of arthritis involves mainly the spine and sacroiliac joints, and often affects young adults, adolescents, or infants. In the U.S., this very painful type of arthritis has at least 1 percent of the population.

Spondyloarthritis is also associated with the swelling of tendons and ligaments, called enthesitis, where they join bone.

Enteropathic arthritis

Enteropathic arthritis is affecting people with inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, according to the united states Spondylitis Association. The sacroiliac (SI) joints are affected in enteropathic arthritis which causes low back pain.

The SI joints are located between the sacrum and the pelvis bones, and are protected by sturdy ligaments. The sacrum is the main spine support.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)

RA can cause pain to various joints in the body, including the facet joints of the spine. It may also destroy the spine joints it affects, though these are mainly in the upper neck (C1-C2).


Osteoporosis causes widespread weakening of muscles, becoming fragile and vulnerable to damage, even with the slightest trauma. Osteoporosis is caused primarily by aging. The inner spongy and the more solid outer parts of the vertebrae become weak and painful over time when it affects the spine. Bone will eventually collapse.

Some researchers claim the majority of lumbar arthritis cases are linked to OA. Some may also be diagnosed with spondyloarthritis, psoriatic arthritis and other types of arthritis.

A few studies have looked at lumbar spine disorders and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). One recent from Japan examined the prevalence and risks of RA in people with cervical and lumbar spine instability.

What they found that 36.7% of the participants in the study had lumbar spinal instability, while 17.2% had both cervical and lumbar spinal instability. Having both conditions was linked to duration and severity of the disease.


Doctors typically use a physical exam to diagnose lumbar arthritis. They can also order imaging studies, including X-rays, if appropriate.

A doctor will also need individual information about their symptoms, pain pattern and the reduced range of motion in the lower back.


A lady swimming with her friend
Swimming and water therapy may help to ease lumbar arthritis symptoms.

Treatment for lumbar arthritis includes:

  • OTC pain medication
  • lifestyle changes
  • alternative therapies
  • prescription medications
  • surgery

If standard medicines don’t work, doctors may prescribe stronger NSAIDs if necessary.

Some changes in lifestyle can keep pressure off the spine and improve the quality of life for a person. Changes in lifestyle to help in lumbar arthritis symptoms include:

  • weight loss
  • a healthful diet, including inflammation-reducing foods
  • not smoking
  • not drinking alcohol in excess
  • exercise, especially water therapy and abdominal strengthening

Quick lumbar arthritis relief therapies include hot and cold compresses meant to promote blood flow and reduce swelling.


That kind of precautions taken for overall back health may also help prevent lumbar arthritis, whether or not a person has been diagnosed with a form of arthritis.

These include:

  • reducing risk of injury by lifting correctly
  • practicing proper posture
  • exercising regularly
  • maintaining a healthy weight
  • eating a healthful diet
  • wearing proper shoes, as some shoes can throw off posture and cause long-term problems
  • giving up smoking


Chronic arthritis can be treated with medicine and healthy lifestyle habits, and its many symptoms. People will consult with their physicians to determine the right care strategy for the different conditions and symptoms they encounter.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 54 million Americans live with some form of arthritis and OA affects 30 million.