When Is Lower Back Pain from Arthritis?

A woman sitting at her desk, holding her lower back in painYou may know someone who has experienced a herniated spinal disc or a spinal-related nerve condition such as sciatica. The big issue is, how can you determine the difference between arthritis and normal back pain after yard work?

This is why when a patient visits their physician for lower back pain, their doctor will usually have them undergo diagnostic tests. The results could indicate lower back pain from arthritis, but that’s not the only potential cause. To learn more, check out some of the helpful information below, then make an appointment with a specialist at Cawley Physical Therapy and Rehab!

Lower Back Anatomy

Physicians often refer to the lower back as the lumbar region of the spine. The lumbar area is found at the bottom-most portion of the spine and consists of five vertebral bones (L1-L5) stacked on top of each other. 

Each bone is paired with an adjacent lumbar joint. In between each pair of bones resides a spinal disc that consists of a spongy, jelly-like material on the inside and is surrounded by a tough, fibrous exterior. 

There are many internal parts that support the lumbar area of the spine. Many of these parts include:

  • Nerves
  • Muscles
  • Ligaments
  • Blood vessels

What Is Lower Back Arthritis?

Arthritis can occur after injury or during the aging process. The cartilage in spinal joints begins to wear out, and spinal discs begin to dry out and lose their height. 

Thinning spinal discs lead to decreased joint space, and decreased space between the joints often leads to compression of the nearby nerve(s). As spinal components deteriorate and spinal nerves become impinged, inflammation begins to occur, which leads to lower back pain and further degeneration of important spinal components.

This process of inflammation and further degeneration is sometimes referred to as DDD (degenerative disc disease) or DJD (degenerative joint disease).

A patient receiving physical therapy treatment for lower back pain

Symptoms of Lower Back Arthritis

Lower back issues can cause a person to exhibit a myriad of symptoms. However, there are some key symptoms that can differentiate lower back arthritis from other spinal conditions. 

Some of these specific symptoms include:

  • Lower back pain that increased progressively over months or years.
  • Daily pain and stiffness – worse upon waking in the morning, then improves with movement throughout the day.
  • Walking for extended periods increases pain and leg weakness.
  • Sitting is easier (less painful) than standing.
  • Some days are worse than others (weather can affect pain levels).

What Can Be Done?

If a person is experiencing persistent lower back pain, the first thing they should do is to obtain an accurate diagnosis from their physician. Although many of the above symptoms are often related to arthritis of the spine, leg weakness, in particular, can be a sign of a more serious condition known as spinal stenosis

For those who do receive a diagnosis of arthritis, DDD, or DJD, there are lower back pain treatment options that they can do to reduce their pain levels and slow the degenerative process.

  • Following an anti-inflammatory diet can help decrease whole-body inflammation and help replenish the loss of cartilage. 
  • Supplements such as vitamin D, fish oil, and others may also assist in reducing inflammation levels.
  • Daily exercise can be very helpful as well. 

Movement helps keep joints well lubricated, and it increases blood flow. Blood delivers essential oxygen to spinal components, then whisks away toxins created by the inflammatory process. 

Movement may also lead to losing excess weight, which decreases what the lower back must support. This means less stress on joints and other spinal structures. 

That said, moving the wrong way can make your condition worse. Cawley Physical Therapy & Rehab can develop a therapeutic exercise program for you so you can rest assured that you’re going about things the right way.

Reduce Your Back Pain Today at Cawley Physical Therapy

Beginning an exercise program to treat arthritis back pain is difficult. It’s hard to know where to start, and it can often seem like you are only going backward. Even worse, performing any exercise incorrectly can lead to even more pain and inflammation.

Fortunately, you don’t have to do this alone. The back pain specialists at Cawley Physical Therapy & Rehab can help. We know how to treat both chronic and acute back pain and even how to prevent lower back pain from starting. Our qualified physical therapists can assess your particular challenges and develop a program to help you build the strength and flexibility your spine needs.

If you’d like to know more about developing an exercise program to help reduce arthritis symptoms, please contact Cawley Physical Therapy & Rehab at 570-208-2787 or email us at: cawleyptfrank@gmail.com.