Lumbar osteophytes refer to smooth growths of bone that often develop around the periphery of the vertebral joints in the lumbar spine (lower back). As we get older, our spinal anatomy gradually begins to deteriorate. The intervertebral discs that cushion the spine become thinned and possibly herniated; the muscles, tendons, and ligaments that support the spine become weakened; and the facet joints that connect adjacent vertebrae and stabilize the spine wear down and become arthritic.
The result of this degeneration most commonly presents as a loss of flexibility and the onset of aches and pains, and nowhere is this degeneration more frequently exhibited than in the lumbar spine. The strongest and most flexible segment in the back, the lumbar spine, supports much of the body’s weight and provides the range of motion we require. However, this strength and mobility also makes the lumbar spine particularly susceptible to damage and the formation of lumbar osteophytes – particularly in older patients.
Lumbar osteophytes form as the intervertebral discs and vertebral joints, known as facet joints, in the lower back begin to deteriorate as a result of regular wear and tear. Each of the five (or six) lumbar vertebrae normally meet at hinge-like facet joints, which stabilize the spine and also allow for articulation. In the aging population, the cartilage-coated joint surfaces can begin to wear down, and the body will develop bone spurs to compensate for this damage. These growths become problematic when they come into contact with a nerve in the lower back, soft tissue, or another bone.
Symptoms of lumbar osteophytes can include:
- Local, chronic lower back pain
- Compression of the sciatic nerve, leading to sciatica
- Unexpected muscle weakness
- Numbness or tingling in the extremities
- In emergency cases, incontinence
If you are suffering from the continued effects of lumbar osteophytes, and you are looking for lower back pain relief, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about our minimally invasive outpatient endoscopic procedures.