The spine is made up of numerous separate bones called vertebrae, with the spinal cord running through the middle. The vertebrae are separated by cushiony discs of cartilage which allow some movement and also act as shock absorbers. With age, these discs can wear down and become herniated (bulge out), and the vertebrae begin to rub against each other when they move. The result is a form of osteoarthritis called spondylosis, which can cause pain and stiffness.
The spine is divided into five regions according to the shape and size of the vertebrae: the two largest regions that make up the lower back are called the lumbar spine and the sacrum. Thus, "lumbosacral spondylosis" is osteoarthritis in the lower back area.
If herniated discs happen to press on the spinal cord, this may cause damage to the cord, which is called myelopathy. "Spondylosis without myelopathy" means spondylosis where spinal cord damage has not occurred.
More than 80% of people aged over 40 have some form of spondylosis, but it does not always cause symptoms. Because the condition progresses with age, symptoms are more likely to appear in older people. For patients with lumbosacral spondylosis, symptoms include pain and stiffness in the lower back, often most noticeable on getting up in the morning or after sitting still for a period of time. Unfortunately, activity may cause further pain, especially repetitive movements such as bending and lifting.
Bone changes and thinning of the intervertebral discs can result in pinching of the nerves which branch out from the spinal cord (even when the cord itself is unaffected.). If this happens in lumbosacral spondylosis the effect may be numbness, tingling, weakness or shooting pains in the legs.
The degenerative changes that cause lumbosacral spondylosis cannot be reversed, so treatment focuses on relieving symptoms and improving quality of life.