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Lumbar Spondylosis (Degeneration)

What is Lumbar Spondylosis?

Lumbar spondylosis is age-related degeneration of the bones (vertebrae) and discs of the lower back. These changes are often called degenerative disc disease and osteoarthritis. Lumbar spondylosis is a common condition marked by the breakdown of one or more of the discs that separate the bones of the spine. The discs provide cushioning between the vertebrae and absorb pressure put on the spine. Although most people experience some degeneration of the spine as they age, not everyone experiences back pain.

What You Can Expect at UTHealth Neurosciences

At UTHealth Neurosciences, we first investigate options for nonsurgical treatment, including medical management, pain management, physical therapy, rehabilitation, and watchful waiting. When surgery is needed, our neurosurgeons routinely employ innovative minimally invasive techniques. Throughout the treatment process, our team works closely with the doctor who referred you to ensure a smooth transition back to your regular care plan. While you are with us, you can expect expert care, excellent communication, and genuine compassion.

Causes of Lumbar Spondylolisthesis

Spondylosis most often affects discs in the lumbar spine (lower back). When discs herniate, the protruding disc can press against any of the spinal nerves that run from the spinal cord to the rest of the body. Herniated discs can cause nerve pain known as sciatica, which travels along the sciatic nerve running from the lower back down the length of each leg.

As a disc degenerates, bone spurs may form at the edges of the vertebrae. Bone spurs may compress the spinal nerves, leading to weakness or numbness in the arms or legs. If bone spurs compress the spinal cord, you may develop problems with walking and bladder and bowel control. Over time, a degenerating disc may break down completely, leaving no space between two vertebrae, which can result in impaired movement, pain, and nerve damage. The pressure can cause pain, weakness, and numbness in the back and the legs.

Early Signs of Lumbar Spondylosis and Diagnosis

Symptoms of spondylosis may vary from none to mild to severe. The most common symptom is low back pain. Our spine specialists diagnose spondylosis based on your history of symptoms, a physical exam, and imaging tests that may include X-rays, CT scan, or MRI.


Treatment depends on how severe the condition is. Initial treatment may include rest, physical therapy, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, oral corticosteroids, and/or bracing that limits movement of the spine and allows the fracture to heal.

Most people with lumbar spondylosis can be treated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or pain relievers, heat or ice applications, and physical therapy. People who still experience pain or are significantly restricted in their daily movements after trying conservative treatments may consider surgery to remove the deteriorated disc and fuse the two vertebrae. Surgery may be recommended for patients who have severe or high-grade slippage of the vertebra in which more than 50% of the fractured vertebra slips forward on the vertebra below it. The procedure most often recommended for people with lumbar spondylolisthesis is spinal fusion.

The Spine Center at UTHealth Neurosciences brings together a multidisciplinary team of board-certified, fellowship-trained neurosurgeons, neurologists, researchers, and pain management specialists who work together to help provide relief for even the most complex problems. People who suffer from radiculopathy, spondylosis, spinal stenosis, herniated disc, degenerative disc disease, peripheral nerve disorders, spinal cord injury, or other trauma benefit from our collaborative expertise in managing spine disorders. Before recommending surgery, your physician team will investigate options for nonsurgical treatment, including medical management, interventional pain management, physical therapy, and watchful waiting when appropriate.

Spine Disease and Back Pain

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At UTHealth Neurosciences, we offer patients access to specialized neurological care at clinics across the greater Houston area. To ask us a question, schedule an appointment, or learn more about us, please call (713) 486-8100, or click below to send us a message. In the event of an emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest Emergency Room.

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