This condition is a degeneration of the spine that can affect the spine at any level, resulting in pain and discomfort that can grow worse over time.
What You Need To Know About Spondylosis
What is Spondylosis?
Spondylosis is a painful degenerative spine disorder. The condition is caused by the spinal discs and joints changing from a lifetime of wear and tear on the spine. These changes can make simple movements difficult on your back, causing extreme discomfort.
As you age, your body changes in response to shifts in your life. For example, your hair may go gray, or you may lose your hair all together. These are natural parts of the aging process. Likewise, degenerative conditions such as spondylosis are a reaction to the aging process. During spondylosis, the spinal discs deteriorate as a result of aging. This deterioration affects their cushioning ability, and creates a more rigid position for the spine. However, as the spine becomes more rigid, simple activities become more difficult.
Over 85% of people who are 60 or older have spondylosis, and it is the most common type of progressive condition that affects the neck. If left untreated, symptoms from spondylosis compound and significantly affect the quality of your life.
What Causes Spondylosis?
There are 24 bones that make up your vertebrae. These bones provide spine support for your body and protect the nerves that lead to your spine. Between each of these bones, you have facet joints that connect the vertebrae. Between each of these joints are discs that absorb bone impact. Together, these components allow your spine to function and give you movement.
The degeneration process usually begins with the discs. As the body gets older, the spinal discs begin to dry out, lose their elasticity and collapse. The thinning of the discs places stress on the facet joints and the ligaments that hold the vertebrae together. These structures weaken, allowing the vertebrae to become overly mobile.
As you age, these discs change consistency and lose some of their utility. The vertebrae may begin to shift out of proper alignment and rub against each other. As these discs dissolve away, the discs begin to rub together. Friction from deteriorated discs causes bone growths — called bone spurs — to appear on the spine. As resistance grows, back movement is more compromised, and friction increases. The vertebral shifting and the excess bone growth can reduce the space through which the nerve roots travel, and the nerve roots or the spinal cord can become painfully compressed.
There are many factors that can contribute to spondylosis, including:
Spinal injury or previous spinal trauma including spinal surgery
Getting a proper diagnosis for spondylosis requires a proper consultation from a spine physician.
Spondylosis can affect the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar portions of the spine. Each condition variation produces different symptoms.
- Cervical Spondylosis Degeneration in the cervical spine may cause neck, shoulder and arm pain. It may also result in loss of fine motor skills, weakness, numbness and tingling in the arms and legs.
- Thoracic Spondylosis Degeneration in the thoracic spine may cause pain in the chest and upper abdomen. It may also result in weakness, numbness and tingling in the legs.
- Lumbar Spondylosis Degeneration in the lumbar spine may cause pain in the back, buttocks, or legs, with possible numbness, and muscle weakness that may be worsened by activities such as lifting, bending, twisting, or sitting.
One symptom that is common across all these conditions is pain induced by sudden movements, such as sneezing, coughing, or moving unexpectedly.
How Spondylosis Is Diagnosed
Diagnosing spondylosis involves a physical examination and diagnostic screening.
During your physical examination, your doctor will ask you questions about your condition. They will test your reflexes and monitor your reactions. Your doctor may need to aggravate your condition to assess your response. This portion of the exam may cause you some brief discomfort but will help your doctor narrow down causes for your pain.
Your doctor will use imaging technology to determine if you have spondylosis. The use of x-rays, MRIs, and nerve conduction and EMG machines will help confirm their diagnosis and understand the extent of your condition.
Depending on the severity of your condition, there are many options for treatment. Your doctor will recommend the best treatment option for your situation.
For milder cases, your doctor may recommend using over-the-counter pain relievers such as Advil, Aleve, Tylenol, or their store brand counterparts. These drugs can help relieve your pain and inflammation. However, some people may need prescription medication to alleviate their symptoms. These can include extra strength anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids, muscle relaxants, anti-seizure medications, antidepressants, and more and robust painkillers. Be careful with all medication, as it can become habit-forming.
Physical therapy with a trained expert can also help guide your recovery. Increasing the strength of key areas in your muscles and shoulders can help alleviate your discomfort.
If conservative options do not help alleviate your pain, you may need surgical options to create more room for your spinal nerves. Your doctor will not recommend surgery unless other options have failed to produce optimal results for your healing.
There are many minimally-invasive or traditional surgery options available to treat spondylosis. Your doctor will choose the best option for your condition.
Learn more about the Spine Center at Resurgens Orthopaedics.