lumbar spinal instabilityOne of the main purposes of the spinal column is to allow us the ability to engage in various forms of movement.  Although some spinal motion is normal, when the motion becomes excessive the spinal column can lose its ability to support itself and surrounding structures.  This is otherwise known as spinal instability. In this post we will focus on instability in the lumbar, or lower back region of the body. Hampton Roads Orthopaedics Spine & Sports Medicine provides this outline of some of the causes and symptoms of this medical condition as well as discuss various treatment options.


Although there are some congenital conditions that make the spine more prone to movement, more common causes are as a result of a back injury or issues that often arise from simple aging, such as degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis or osteoporosis.  These wear and tear issues break down various key components of the spine such as the bones and spinal discs, which puts additional stress on the adjacent muscles, tendons and ligaments that normally provide stabilization support to the spinal column.


Muscle spasms in the lower back region is one of the most common symptoms of spinal instability, although muscle spasms in this area can occur for other reasons as well.  Other lumbar instability symptoms include:

  • a sharp increase in pain when getting up from a standing position,
  • a decreased ability to flex and rotate the spine,
  • experiencing a “catching” sensation when standing up,
  • and episodes of pain that increase both in frequency and intensity.


Conservative measures are typically the first line of treatment for spinal instability.  NSAIDS are often prescribed to help reduce inflammation in spinal tissues. Some patients find that chiropractic care is beneficial.  A series of physical therapy treatments is often prescribed. A professional physical therapist can show patients proper lifting techniques and offer suggestions on proper posture, as well as assign a series of exercises designed to stretch and strengthen spinal muscles so they can help provide strong support for spinal structures.  Weight loss can help patients by reducing the load placed on lower back muscles and ligaments. In severe cases of spinal instability, surgery may be recommended in an attempt to stabilize the spine.

If you would like to know more about spinal instability, please contact us.  Hampton Roads Orthopaedics Spine & Sports Medicine has a team of highly qualified spinal specialists to help you get back to feeling your best!