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The backbone or the vertebral column or spine, of the human anatomy is the mechanism that helps hold the body’s structure and keeps it upright. We will discuss about Lumbar Spondylosis, its causes, symptoms and treatment.
The vertebral column is comprised of thirty three vertebrae which are named and roughly divided into five categories based on the regions of the spine they occupy. The seven cervical vertebrae are found in the neck region, the twelve thoracic vertebrae is the middle section of the vertebral column which lies between the cervical and lumbar vertebrae and is basically the upper back portion of the spine. Five lumbar vertebrae make up the lower back portion of the spine. The sacrum is made up of five sacral vertebrae and three to five coccygeal vertebrae make up the coccyx. The sacrum and coccyx lie in the lowest or the tail end of the backbone.
Lumbar spine or the lower back is responsible for supporting most of body’s weight and as a result is most prone to breakdown because of this pressure it has to bear. In this article we will focus on the lumbar spine and one of the most common affliction that plagues it – lumbar spondylosis or lumbar osteoarthritis.
What is Lumbar Spondylosis?
The lumbar vertebrae are the largest and the most strongly built vertebrae as it needs to support the maximum amount of body’s weight especially while one is walking, standing or in any kind of upright position. The degeneration of the intervertebral discs, herniation , disc bulges in the lumbar spine , bony overgrowth (bony spurs) , deterioration of the lumbar facet joints, damage or shrinking of cartilage disc, changes in the soft tissue and the bones due to wear and tear caused by everyday movements, can all lead to spondylosis of the lumbar spine. In short this medical condition can be defined as the painful degenerative condition causes due to deterioration or drying out of the intervertebral discs, joints, soft tissue of the lumbar spine. This condition can be diagnosed with X-Rays, CT scans, or MRIs.
Middle age people generally over the age of 40 complain of this medical condition. However it can affect young adults as well, especially if they have suffered any injury or have an improper lifestyle in terms of exercise, sleep routine, inadequate nutrition and irregular meals.
Symptoms of Lumbar Spondylosis
The following conditions are symptomatic of spondylosis in the lumbar.
- Discomfort while sitting especially for long period of time.
- Pain in the lower back which can range from mild to severe.
- Muscle spasms.
- Loss of control over bladder or bowel movements in advance stages.
- Loss of balance.
- Numbness or tingling sensation in the limbs that is hip joints, toes, hamstrings, lower back, tailbone, buttocks, calves, feet.
- Tenderness in the lumbar region.
- Nerve compression caused by spondylosis may lead to weak limbs.
- Lack of coordination and abnormal reflexes.
Causes of Lumbar Spondylosis
Changes in the spinal bones, disks, joints due to certain biological or chemical changes with increase of age are the most common cause of this ailment. With time some wear and tear of the vertebral bones, joints, and ligaments is to be expected which increases the possibly of developing spondylosis.
Incorrect posture while sitting, standing, walking can lead to an increase of pressure on the lumbar vertebrae which can lead to its break down and thus its spondylosis.
Genetically Weak Bones and Ligaments:
These increase the risk of injuring the lower back and developing spondylosis.
Bad Lifestyle or Habits:
Excessive smoking, alcohol consumption, inadequate sleep, bad body posture while sleeping is known to have adverse effects on bones and ligaments and might lead to development of spondylosis in the lower back.
Injury to the lower back may also lead to spondylosis in it.
Excessive body weight due to obesity leads to increased weight or pressure on the lumbar spine may lead to its degeneration.
Causes of Lumbar Spondylosis According to Ayurveda:
According to Ayurveda the human body is comprised of doshas or energies of the body which govern its mental and biological processes. Pitta, Vata , Kapha, are the three primary doshas which correspond to fire-water, space-air, and earth –water respectively. A state of misbalance in the human body occurs when these doshas are not in equilibrium which in turn causes physical or mental problems.
Aggravation of the Vata and the Kapha dosha is responsible for lumbar osteoarthritis. according to Ayurveda. Kapha dosha is responsible for maintaining lubrication or moistness, production of mucous, growth, strength, repair, stability and support of the body, stamina, rejuvenation, maintenance of proper balance of our body. Increase in roughness due to an excess of Vata dosha leads to drying up of Kapha or the natural drying up of Kapha dosha is aggravated by excessive Vata dosha which again causes drying of inter vertebral discs of the lumbar spine leading to its spondylosis.
Another possible cause can be blockage in natural flow of Vata energy in the natural bodily channels by excess Kapha dosha which leads to its excessive accumulation adversely affecting the spine. Improper eating habits such as eating small or stale meals with large gaps in between, eating dry, cold, sour, bitter , astringent food items that may cause constipation , improper sleeping pattern leads to aggravated Vata dosha. Misbalance of Kapha dosha directly has adverse effect on the lumbar spine. Overeating especially of sweet, oily, salty food items, lack of exercise, excessive sleep, slow digestion are some of the factors that cause misbalance of the Kapha dosha.
Some other factors that lead to a misbalance of the doshas thereby increasing the chances of spondylosis are:
- Improper body posture while reading, eating, or sitting.
- Trauma to the back.
- Excessive or too little exercise.
- Staying awake till late in the night.
- Lifting very heavy load.
- Uneven distribution of weight while carrying day to day objects such as bags, purses, or backpacks.
Treatments of Lumbar Spondylosis
Ibuprofen , Duloxetine , Buprenorphine patch , Naproxen OTC , Codeine-acetaminophen (paracetamol) , Cyclobenzaprine , Oxycodone , are some over the counter and prescription pain medications useful in relieving pain when suffering from lower back spondylosis. Epidural Steroid Injection may also be used to provide immediate relief in times of severe pain and swelling. Lumbar laminectomy is the surgical procedure used to treat spinal stenosis by removing the damaged disks. What is common in all the above allopathic treatments are the risks and the side effects. Surgeries are risky invasive procedures to perform and prolonged dependence on pain meds may include some very nasty long term consequences such as addiction, insomnia, weight gain, mood disorders, to name just a few side effects.
So what is the Alternative?
So how to beat the disease without beating the body? Ayurveda the ancient Indian discipline of medicine provides many side effect free alternatives to managing lumbar osteoarthritis.
Ice and Heat Pads:
Application of heat or ice pad helps relieve pain. Alternating between cold and hot therapy has proved to be the most effective.
Intake of two to three garlic cloves in the morning reduces back aches. Vigorous massage with garlic infused oil prepared by slowly frying approximately ten garlic cloves in sesame or mustard or coconut oil until brown also relieves pain. The message should be performed after the oil cools down and should be administered for at least fifteen days continously.
Milk with Castor Oil or Turmeric:
Haldi (turmeric) and castor oil are two extremely beneficial herbal elements found in most pantries. Partaking milk with a pinch of haldi has pain relieving, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. Another potent concoction is that of castor milk plus castor oil. Mix about 10 ml of castor oil in a glass of milk to improve bowel movement and provide relief against constipation.
Eating food rich in vitamin C:
Eating vitamin C rich food effectively reduces back aches. Intake of lemon juice mixed with common salt twice every day is an effective pain relief.
Chamomile Tea and Poppy Seeds:
Potent anti-pain elements, intake of these help relieve pain
Consumption of 1 teaspoon of fenugreek seeds on an empty stomach in the morning is beneficial. The seeds should be soaked in water for the period of an entire day .
Application of poultice made of raw potato to the pain afflicted area of lumbar spine is very effective in relieving pain.
Consumption of a paste of almonds soaked overnight at breakfast is very beneficial.
Eating a diet comprised of raw vegetables or lightly steamed vegetables, milk, sprouts, plenty of fruits(with the exception of bananas), natural juices is advised for people suffering from lower back ache/ spondylosis . Whereas curds, oily food, processed food or food items with a lot preservatives, sugar, tea, coffee spicy food should be avoided.
Basti or Enemas: Administration of enemas helps with lumbar osteoarthritis by detoxifying colon, which is the main seat of the Vata dosha. Kashya Basti includes administration of an Ayurvedic medicinal enema, Sneha Basti involves an enema of medicated oils. These enemas relieve constipation as well common accompanying problem of spondylosis of lower back
Upnaham: This includes application of herbal pastes to the afflicted areas which helps relieve spinal pain, swelling, and inflammation by improving circulation and strengthening the muscles of the back.
Abhyangam: A full body message with herbal oils tones the muscle and provides the needed lubrication for spinal joints.
Panchkarma Therapy: This therapy entails complete detoxification of the body. It consists of five treatments or karmas, namely Raktamokhshan (bloodletting), Virechan (purgation), Vaman (medicated emesis), Nasyam (nasal instillation), and Basti (enema). These treatments work in tandem to eliminate toxins from the body thereby rejuvenating body and also relieving it of pain, stiffness, and soreness thus providing potent relief to patients afflicted with lower back spondylosis .
Kizhi: Potlis or boluses of muslin cloth containing a mix of herbs, rice, sand, medicinal choorans are heated and lightly pounded over the affected areas. This is known to relieve pain and reduce muscle spasms and is extremely beneficial for people suffering from lower back spondylosis.
Pizhichil : This oil treatment is known to bring the doshas into equilibrium and toning and strengthening the muscles.
Spine Basti: This treatment helps spondylosis sufferers by restoring lubrication in the spinal joints. Warm herbal oil is poured over the spinal cord and retained using a black gram paste.
Ilakkizhi/ Elakizhi (Patrapotala Sweda): Leaves with properties that pacify Vata dosha such as tamarind, Calatropis gigentica, drumstick, Adatoda vasica etc. are chopped and mixed with coconut, lemon, turmeric, rock salt among other things. This mixture is then fried in medicated oil, divided and tied in potlis which is immersed and heated in a vessel containing the same oil that was used to fry the decoction. Gentle massage is given with the potli in seven different postures at a temperature of 46 degree. After the massage the body is covered with thick blanket for half an hour after which one has to take a hot water bath. This pacifies the Vata dosha , relives pain and inflammation. Since lumbar spondylosis is caused due to a misbalanced Vata this directly addresses the root cause of the problem.
Podikkizhi, Kativasthi, Tailadhara, Nhavarakkizhi and Vasthi are some other Ayurvedic treatments that have a proven history of allaying the symptoms of spondylosis of the lumbar.
Bryonia, Rhus tox, Ruta, Calcarea Phos, Symphytum are some homeopathic medicines that help allay pain, stiffness, swelling, soreness, bone and joint complains and are useful in reliving some of the symptoms of lumbar osteoarthritis.
- Get proper massages with medicated herbal oil.
- Be in regular consultation with your Ayurveda Doctor.
- Proper exercise to strengthen back muscles should be practiced only after consultation with one’s physician.
- Avoid slouching or a crooked posture while sitting, standing or working at a desk. Instead try to hold your back straight.
- Don’t use pillows while sleeping.
- Avoid long journeys on uneven roads as this causes unnecessary stress to the back.
- Stay away from smoking and alcohol.
- Reduce intake of processed food especially of items with high sugar or fat content like pizzas, deep fired items, aerated drinks.
- Cold items lead to excess of Vata dosha should be shunned.
- Avoid lifting heavy objects.
Yoga and Exercises
Yoga asana and exercises can bring immense relief from the spondylosis of the lumbar. Some of these are:
Naukasana: This asana helps to ease back pain and stiffness.
Suryaved Pranayam: When performed religiously it can benefit both the mind and body.
Sitting with A Straight Back: Always hold you back straight while sitting. This straightens the spinal column and keeps it well framed.
Cobra Pose or Bhujangasana: Lie face down on the stomach with feet together and hands flat on the floor, press the ground away while arching/ lifting your torso. Helps relieve back ache by relieving stiffness in lower back, strengthens spine, improves digestion, strengthens the back and arm muscles.
Child pose or Balasana or Shishuasana: Kneel while bringing the knees together with the feet under the buttocks, slowly rest your torso on the thighs with forehead touching the floor. This restful pose elongates the back and opens up the hips and helps digestion as well.
Lotus pose or Padmasana: Cross feet on opposite thighs with ramrod straight back. This meditative stance fosters physical stability.
Salabhasana or Locust Pose: Lie on your stomach with arms parallel to your side, lift your torso and legs of the floor as much as you can comfortably. This pose lengthens spine, improves digestion, strengthens the core and back muscles and is extremely helpful for lower back spondylosis.
Hang: Hang head down with crossed arms without touching the floor with someone holding your ankles. Relax and take deep breaths. Gravity acts to elongate the spine, ease out of the pose gently.
Savasana or Shavasana: A sleeping pose. Lie down on your back in the sleeping position. It is mandatory to perform Savasana for five minutes after performing other Asana. This asana relaxes muscles, calms the mind.
Lumbar Spine Extension: Lie face down on the stomach with your hands palm down parallel to the shoulders. Arch your back while Keeping hips on the floor with straight arms push back as far as you can without causing discomfort, hold the pose for 5 seconds and then gently ease out of it.
Aerobics: These exercises help reduce weight which in turn relieves pressure on the lumbar spine providing relief in spondylosis.
Knee-to-chest stretches, mild spine twist, lumbar spine rotations, pelvic tilts, curl-up are some other exercises that provide relief and help from lumbar osteoarthritis.
• These exercises should only be performed after consulting your physician, physiotherapist, Doctor (Allopathy or Ayurveda)
• Perform exercises only while you can do them comfortably, over exerting yourself might cause more damage to your spine.
While discomfort in any body part or organ is troublesome, any distress in the spine or lumbar region is a matter of grave concern indeed. Lumbar spondylosis is one of the most common ailments of the backbone that is capable of causing excruciating pain to the patient, therefore it should be treated as soon as the first symptoms surface. Consult a good practitioner of Ayurveda to be pain free and in the best of shape. Health comes first, take care and be healthy!