Spondylosis refers to spinal osteoarthritis, or wear-and-tear arthritis. Itis important to differentiate between this and the dozens of othertypes of arthritis, like rheumatoid arthritis, which is an inflammatoryautoimmune disease. Spondylosis can also lead to some inflammation,but is characterized by the degeneration of the cartilage that lines thefacet joints of the spine.There are a variety of reasons that facet joint cartilage can begin todegenerate, the most common of which is natural degenerationrelated to the aging process. Other causes include overexertion, poorposture, genetics, injury, smoking, obesity, and degenerative discdisease, among others. In many people with spondylosis, acombination of the above factors may have accelerated the naturaldegenerative process. It should be noted, however, that normal levelsof degeneration in the spinal facet joints are not consideredspondylosis. Spondylosis is a more severe condition that can lead todebilitating, painful symptoms.
Symptoms of SpondylosisIt is possible for spondylosis to remain asymptomatic, but many people with the condition experiencemechanical symptoms, radiculopathic symptoms, or both. Mechanical symptoms of osteoarthritis in the spinemay include: • Joint stiffness and pain • Joint instability • Joint lockage or spontaneous “catching” • Reduced range of motion • InflammationRadiculopathic symptoms may emerge if bone spurs develop in or around the arthritic joint and compress anearby spinal nerve root. Common radicular symptoms are: • Shooting pain • Parasthesia • Numbness • Muscle weaknessRadiculopathic symptoms like those mentioned above tend to travel along the entire path of the nerve rootbeing compressed. Therefore, spondylosis in the lower back may produce symptoms that radiate through thebuttocks, hips, legs, feet, and toes. Spinal arthritis in the neck can cause similar symptoms in the shoulders,arms, hands, and fingers, in addition to headaches.
Getting a DiagnosisAs with any chronic health condition, getting a diagnosisfrom a physician is imperative. If you are experiencing anyof the above symptoms, make an appointment with yourprimary care physician for an exam. Be sure to report allof your symptoms in as much detail as possible. He or shemay be able to diagnose spondylosis on the spot, or youmay be referred to a spine specialist for further tests.Medical imaging scans like an X-ray, MRI, or CT scan mayalso be necessary if the physician wants to pinpoint theexact location of any nerve compression that may beinvolved.
Spondylosis TreatmentSpondylosis treatment will almost alwaysbegin nonsurgically with a regimen ofprescription or over the counteranalgesics, anti-inflammatories,temperature therapy, physical therapy,behavior medication, stretching, andlow-impact exercise. Your physician mayalso suggest more targeted painmanagement techniques like ultrasoundtherapy, transcutaneous electrical nervestimulation (TENS), analgesic painpatches, and corticosteroid injections.
Spondylosis SurgeryIf several months of conservative treatments do not helpto relieve your spondylosis symptoms, surgery maybecome an option. Surgery will not “cure” or reverse thecondition, but it can help to address the symptomsassociated with nerve compression. If you are consideringsurgery, be sure to get various opinions from differentspine specialists about your condition, the necessity ofsurgery, and the type of procedure that would be best foryou. Both minimally invasive laser spine surgery and openspine surgery are available for spondylosis, but not allpatients will be candidates for an outpatient procedure.