Lumbar Spine Degeneration


Lumbar spine degeneration or arthritis is also known as spondylosis.

Spondylosis is a degenerative condition caused by chronic wear of the lumbar spine. This degenerative process is caused by damage to the intervertebral discs, the joints in between the bones of the vertebrae and the cartilage lining the joints. Everyday wear and tear may start these degenerative changes, they are progressive and unfortunately irreversible. As the intervertebral disc becomes degenerative it causes the disc to reduce in size causing a decreased space between each of the vertebral bodies. Osteophytes or bone spurs may be formed. These osteophytes can grow into the spinal cannel (space for the spinal cord)decreasing its size, a process called spinal stenosis. Osteophytes may also grow into the intervertebral foramen (spaces for the nerve roots to travel through) causing spinal nerve root impingement.

In severe cases you may suffer from intervertebral end plate fractures or a collapsed vertebrae, this is common with osteoporosis.
Apart from the direct pain associated with the collapsed vertebrae this drastically reduces the intervertebral spaces and will increase your symptoms significantly.

Risk factors include:

  • Being overweight.
  • Lack of exercise.
  • Osteoporosis
  • Previous spinal surgery.
  • Previous disc or joint injury.
  • Being very active or having a very physical job.
  • Ageing.


Symptoms include:

  • Low back pain and stiffness.
  • Pain, weakness, numbness, pins and needles into your buttocks or legs.

Pain worse after:

  • Standing or walking.
  • Lifting.

Symptoms tend to ease with activities that take the weight off the spine such as:

  • Lying down.
  • Sitting in a flexed position.


Whilst little can be done to reverse the degeneration of the lower back, physiotherapy is aimed at maintaining mobility and restoring function.

Symptoms may be relieved through:

  • Massage to relax spasmotic muscles thereby deloading the joints.
  • Gentle mobilisations to restore movement to the lumbar spine.
  • Postural education.
  • Strengthening to ensure spinal movements are controlled and so that you are able to maintain a correct posture preventing impingement of spinal nerves.
  • Exercises so you can maintain your gains in mobility, flexibility and strength.
  • Biomechanical review to ensure you are doing the correct movement patterns.