A general degeneration of the spine, spondylosis often occurs in patients with arthritis of the spine. Many parts of the spine may be affected, including the discs, cartilage, and ligaments.

What is Spondylosis?

  • The medical term spondylosis may mean two separate things, the first being a broad term referring to spinal degeneration; the second, a specific term referring to spinal osteoarthritis, or the deterioration of cartilage in the spine's facet joints. The facet joints are between the vertebrae and help the spine bend and twist.
  • Different parts of the spine may be affected from the degeneration, including its discs, tendons, ligaments, and cartilage. The spinal cord, nerves, and blood vessels may also be affected. Pain may be localized in that specific affected area.
  • Aging may change the protein in your body, which may make the cartilage and joints weaker and more susceptible to damage. Cartilage may also break down over time, leading to other spinal conditions that then may lead to chronic pain.
  • Spondylosis is not a diagnosis of pain. It is, however, a condition that leads to more specific spinal conditions like facet joint syndrome, spinal stenosis, and degenerative disc disease.

What causes it?

Spondylosis is mainly caused by aging. As you grow older, the years of wear and tear causes degeneration of the soft tissues surrounding the spine. Such soft tissues include the discs, ligaments, tendons, and cartilage. All help stabilize and strengthen the spine, and if one or more deteriorates, another spinal condition may occur.

Common risk factors for spondylosis include: genetic disorders, family history of spinal conditions, obesity, smoking, excess alcohol, and injuries that progress over time.

Furthermore, spondylosis may affect different areas of the spine and may cause other spinal conditions associated with that spinal area. In cervical spondylosis, the vertebrae in the neck area are affected, and may cause pain that radiates down the shoulders and into the arms. For thoracic spondylosis, or the middle of the back, symptoms may include pain in the chest area. Lastly, for lumbar spondylosis, the lower back area is affected, and may produce symptoms that cause shooting pain down the buttocks and legs.

How do you treat it?

Since spondylosis is a general term for degeneration of spinal tissues, treating the condition involves treating the symptoms it produces. Not every person with spondylosis will even notice any symptoms. In fact, pain, tingling, numbness, or loss of motor functions only occurs once the degeneration develops spinal abnormalities.

Some spinal abnormalities include: bulging, slipped, or herniated discs, bone spurs, hardened ligaments, spondylolisthesis, facet joint syndrome, and vertebral fractures. Any of these conditions may lead to disrupting or pinching the spinal nerves or spinal cord, which then causes pain.

Treating the pain and other symptoms associated with spondylosis involves treating the spinal abnormalities. Such treatments are almost always conservative at first. These conservative methods like pain and inflammation medication, physical therapy, rest, and hot/cold applications most often only treat the associated pain.

If pain becomes chronic and debilitating, and if conservative methods fail to reduce symptoms, then surgery may be recommended. If you would like more information, and you feel you may be a candidate for spinal surgery, please send us your MRI scan here and we will review it for free.