Lumbar osteoarthritis is a form of degenerative arthritis in the low back that causes pain, stiffness, and inflammation in the joints between vertebrae.

There are two facet joints on the back of each vertebra that connect the bones of the spine and allow for a small amount of movement. Wear and tear on facet joints in the lower spine causes the cartilage between the two bony sides of the facet joints to break down. Without cartilage, the bony parts of the joint rub together as the spine moves. As a result, the joint loses motion and the surrounding tissue becomes inflamed.

Osteoarthritis of the spine commonly occurs as a result of aging, trauma to the spine, and repetitive movements. It does not always result in back pain. Symptoms of lumbar osteoarthritis include decreased back motion and flexibility, as well as stiffness and pain in the lower regions of the back. Back muscles may spasm to help stabilize the spine.

Bone spurs may form on the surfaces of the facet joints as a response to joint pain and instability. These bone spurs can then irritate or compress nearby nerves in the spine, causing symptoms of radiating nerve pain.

Lumbar osteoarthritis is a common cause of low back pain in people over age 60. Early diagnosis and lifestyle modifications are helpful in treating arthritic pain.