Not as much a clinical diagnosis as a descriptive term, “spondylosis” is meant to describe the pain and problems caused by spinal degeneration. It can involve various conditions from stenosis to bone spur formation. Symptoms vary but usually involve some degree of nerve compression.
At DFW Center for Spinal Disorders, we treat the many painful conditions that arise from spondylosis.
What Is Spondylosis?
Spondylosis is an umbrella term that generally means degeneration of the spine for any cause. It usually is associated with osteoarthritis of the spine, which is a wear and tear condition in the spine affects the vertebral bodies, specifically the facet joints. Bone spurs that result from the osteoarthritis can affect the neural arches, e.g. the neuroforamina.
What Are The Symptoms Of Spondylosis?
Spondylosis causes pain in a variety of areas, but the pain is almost always due to pressure on the nerve roots exiting the spine. Depending on the area where the nerve root is compressed or impinged, symptoms will often radiate from the actual location of the nerve root out to the area of the body served by the nerve. For instance, in the cervical spine, the seven vertebrae that make up the neck, nerve root compression can lead to neck pain and stiffness, pain in the arms or shoulders, headaches, and tingling in the hands and fingers. If the compression is in the lumbar spine, the five vertebrae that make up the lower back, the pain may radiate out into the buttocks, legs, and feet, a condition known as sciatica.
Extreme symptoms occur when the nerve begins to become damaged, not simply compressed. This is known as myelopathy. This leads to serious symptoms such as difficulty walking, lack of coordination, numbness in the legs and feet or arms and hands, weakness in the legs and feet or arms and hands, and loss of bladder or bowel control.
What Are The Causes Of Spondylosis?
Many of the conditions that can be traced back to the degeneration of spondylosis begin in the facet joints. These are the paired joints on the back of each vertebral level. As the cartilage between these joints breaks down, the bones begin to grind against one another. This friction impedes mobility, and it also creates bone spurs. As these grow, they often begin to push onto surrounding spinal nerves, muscles, or ligaments.
Generally, the issues with spondylosis can be traced to:
This involves the break down of the vertebrae, particularly the facet joints.
Degenerative Disc Disease
This is the thinning and hardening of our spinal discs between the vertebrae. Pain here can originate in the disc, which may rupture and push on adjacent nerves, or from thinning, which can cause problems with the spine’s biomechanics.
Stenosis involves narrowing that decreases room for the nerve roots. This narrowing may be caused by bone spurs in the foramen, an opening in the side of each vertebra. As the space decreases, the exiting nerve root is compressed. The narrowing can also occur in the spinal canal, which houses the spinal cord.
What Are The Risk Factors For Spondylosis?
Daily wear and tear on our vertebrae and spinal discs is generally the cause of spondylosis, and this is a part of aging. But certain risk factors increase the odds of developing the problems and pain associated with spondylosis:
- Genetic history
- Sedentary lifestyles
- Having suffered a spinal injury
- Having had previous spinal surgery
- Occupations that require repetitive or weight-bearing movements
- Having psoriatic arthritis
When Should I Seek Treatment For My Symptoms?
As we get older, we all have some degree of spondylosis. Most of the time, our symptoms can be managed. These are issues such as neck stiffness and pain or temporary acute back pain caused by a certain movement. These will usually resolve with rest.
If your symptoms persist, or if they begin to involve tingling and loss of function, those are more serious signs of nerve compression. If not addressed this can lead to permanent nerve damage. In these cases, it’s time to see us at DFW Center for Spinal Disorders.
Hear Why People Are Choosing DFW
“The staff at DFW Center for Spinal Disorders is wonderful. They answered all of my questions, calmed my nerves, and left me feeling “warm and fuzzy”. Dr. Happ took so much time to sit and explain my condition to my husband and me. I have never had so much respect for a doctor.”-Kathy C. “My experience with DFW Center for Spinal Disorders was excellent. Dr. Tinley and his staff are attentive and compassionate. My surgery went better than I could have ever expected and I am now pain free!”– Barbara K.
How Is Spondylosis Diagnosed?
Since spondylosis isn’t a specific condition, we look to find the specific source of your pain. This starts with a physical exam and taking a detailed history of the symptoms you’ve been having.
We’ll most likely use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scans to help us pinpoint the areas where the pain is originating. These imaging technologies allow us to see the soft tissues, such as the discs and the nerve roots. We’ll also use x-rays to gauge the degeneration of your vertebrae.
How Is Spondylosis Treated?
At DFW Center for Spinal Disorders, our treatments (except in the case of traumatic injury) always begin with conservative options. For the problems caused by spondylosis, these could be treatment options:
- Physical therapy to improve strength and flexibility in compression areas
- Improving posture to alleviate pressure, particularly on the lower back
- Exercise regimens to improve movement, strength, and circulation
If your pain persists, these would be the next treatment options:
- Prescription pain medication
- Prescription muscle relaxants
- Possible nerve blocks on targeted nerve roots
- Corticosteroid injections in the area of impingement
The last resort if pain persists is surgery to remove whatever is causing compression. Most patients do not require surgery with spondylosis, but it can be necessary if all other treatments aren’t relieving the pain. This could include a variety of procedures, from laminectomy (to remove part of the lamina on the back of the vertebra) to a foraminotomy (where the foramen is enlarged to open space for the exiting nerve root). We could also trim away the herniated portion of a spinal disc that is pushing on a nerve. In most cases, we are able to perform these surgeries with minimally invasive techniques, making for faster recovery.