What is Lumbar Spinal Instability, Know its Causes, Treatment

Protecting, nourishing and strengthening your lower back is an important task if you want to reduce the pain of lower back and enhance the recovery process of your medical treatments. Whether the lower back pain is piercing & intermittent or achy & constant, you must be wondering if the symptoms are a cause of concern. Actually, each symptoms and case of back pain is unique. In medical terms, lower back pain is actually known as lumbar spinal instability. It causes a moderate, repetitive pain in the lower back; however, it’s not always intense. The pain may get worse over time if you consider delaying treatment. Generally, the pain due to lumbar spinal instability does not subside within a couple of weeks.

What is Lumbar Spinal Instability?

What is Lumbar Spinal Instability?

The instability of the lumbar is caused from the lower back pain and sometimes associated with substantial disability. It is believed when the normal pattern of spinal motion is disrupted or the causes of neurological dysfunction establish the pain, lumbar spinal instability occurs. As per the experts, lumbar spinal instability is actually an abnormal response to the load applied on the lumbar spine which is further characterized by motion in these spine segments that are beyond usual constraints. Lumbar spinal instability is caused due to the significant decrease in the functional capacity of spine to maintain the intervertebral zones. This function is very important to prevent neurological dysfunction, major deformity and incapacitating pain. Therefore, the key is to maintain an efficient coordination between these two systems in order to prevent formations of stress on the lumbar spine and the surrounding tissues.

Lumbar spine instability can be of two types. These are functional or clinical instability and structural or radiographic instability. Even if a patient does not have radiological anomaly, functional instability can still cause pain leading to loss of neuromotor capability that controls the segmental movement. On the contrary, structural or mechanical instability is caused from the disruption of passive stabilizers which are held responsible to limit inappropriate segmental motion.

Causes of Lumbar Spinal Instability

In the medical terms, the slippage of the spinal vertebrae is termed as spondylolisthesis. To make this simpler, it means forward slippage of a single lumbar vertebra in contrast to the position of the vertebrae below. This can occur due to intense stress on the vertebra or degenerative changes in the facet joints. The fracture caused from the stress on the vertebral bone often leads to breakage on both sides. It is a thin bone and thus, can easily break due to repeated damage on a daily basis. Lumbar spinal instability can also occur from degeneration of facet joints. When the joints start degenerating, the two ligaments that support the posterior columns become prone to wear and tear naturally and thus become loose. The laxity helps the facet joints to function properly and open more during movement.

Treatment for Lumbar Spinal Instability

It is recommended to opt for preliminary treatment to establish stability in the lumbar spine. Core strengthening, soft tissue release and exercise are the best way to deal with such issues. If the pain of lumbar spinal instability remains during the initial stage of treatment, doctors prescribe for certain injections and/or medication. There are several minimal invasive approaches to the treatments of lumbar spinal instability and patients often return back to normal life.


Ignoring the stress on your lower back can lead to excruciating pain in the long run. Thus, before the condition turns worse it’s wise to visit a doctor and get a detailed evaluation done for lumbar spinal instability. Delaying the treatment of lumbar spinal instability is never a good idea as it might only worsen the condition and pose difficulty in doing any work as such. Consider visiting a renowned orthopedic surgeon or physiotherapist to prevent the dreadful pain and stiffness.

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Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:December 27, 2018

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