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Understanding the major differences between two spinal disorders and treatments that can help relieve both.
Table of Contents
Age-related degeneration of the spine that causes back and neck pain and stiffness.
Spondylosis describes the degeneration of the spine caused mainly by age-related wear and tear on the spine. Spondylosis degeneration is most common in the cervical spine, known as cervical spondylosis. When the degeneration is primarily in the lower spine, it is called lumbar spondylosis. As a person ages, changes occur to the spine, including, the spinal disks losing water, drying, and weakening.
These changes in the spinal disks cause them to bulge or collapse, decreasing the space between the vertebrae. Articular cartilage, which covers the facet joints of the spine, also wears away, which results in bone rubbing on the bone. This rubbing of bone on bone promotes the development of bone spurs, which put pressure on or irritate the spinal cord and spinal nerves.
The most common cause of spondylosis is wear and tear on the spine, most commonly in older age. People with spondylosis often have wearing down of the articular cartilage that covers the joints of the spine called facet joints. The decreased articular cartilage is not only painful but can promote the development of bone spurs which can put pressure on the spinal cord or spinal nerves. There is also often decreased space between vertebrae due to collapsed, bulging or herniated discs. This narrowed space in the spinal canal results in spinal cord compression or pressure on the spinal nerve roots. This compression on the spinal cord or pinched nerves causes various symptoms, including nerve pain, tingling, or numbness in extremities and, in severe cases, loss of bladder or bowel control.
Although spondylosis is most often due to normal wear and tear on the spine, some factors may increase the risk of developing spondylosis. Some risk factors of spondylosis include; a family history of back and chronic neck pain, older age, smoking, obesity, previous neck or back injuries, and working in jobs that require repetitive movement.
Spondylosis is most often diagnosed through scans that allow a doctor to see spine images and determine if there are changes to the spinal cord or spinal discs. Scans may include X rays, an MRI or a CT scan. Nerve tests may also be done to see any changes to the nerve innervation of the muscles due to spondylosis. A doctor may also look at relevant symptoms and medical history to diagnose spondylosis.
The main symptom of Spondylosis is stiffness or pain in the spine or neck that worsens with long periods of inactivity. More severe symptoms include grinding or popping noises in the back or neck and muscle spasms. In some cases, people with spondylosis may experience more severe pain with sudden movements. Signs and symptoms that the spinal cord and spinal nerves may be affected include numbness or tingling in arms or hands, legs, and loss of bladder or bowel control.
Spondylosis can be treated at home with home remedies such as heat and ice to decrease pain or stiffness. Cervical collars are often soft collar that help with neck pain due to cervical spondylosis. Over-the-counter or prescribed medications are primarily used to manage chronic neck or back pain associated with spondylosis.
People with spondylosis need to exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight to help manage the condition’s progression and decrease symptoms such as pain and stiffness. Strengthening exercises help to support the back and spine, helping to reduce back pain. Yoga is an option for improving strength and flexibility and managing the symptoms of spondylosis.
Physical therapy for spondylosis helps work on core strength, flexibility, and range of motion. A physical therapist may use both active exercises or passive treatments, such as deep tissue massage, to help treat and manage the symptoms of spondylosis.
Some people with spondylosis may require surgery, especially if it’s causing nerve effects, such as numbness or tingling, loss of bowel or bladder function, or if there are risks for spinal instability. The most common surgery for spondylosis is spinal fusion, in which a spinal surgeon fuses vertebrae to decrease movement between the vertebrae.
Spondylosis can not be cured entirely, but treatments help to decrease symptoms and manage the condition to maintain a person’s quality of life.
In some cases, spondylosis can be managed without surgical intervention. Surgery may be necessary if spondylosis is causing neurological effects such as weakness in arms or legs.
Research does show that spondylosis does have a genetic component. Therefore, a person may be more at risk for developing spondylosis if there is a family history of spondylosis.