Many people use the words spondylosis and spondylitis interchangeably, possibly because they both share the root word spondylos, which is Greek for “spine.” However, while they are both painful conditions that affect the spine, they are in fact two different conditions.
Spondylosis, a catch-all term for spinal degeneration, is a fairly common condition, especially in people over the age of 50. On the other hand, spondylitis, a form of inflammatory arthritis that affects the spine and sacroiliac joints (the joints where the hips meet the spine), is somewhat rare and can affect people of almost any age.
The main contributor to the development of spondylosis is aging. Erosion and degeneration of the soft tissues of the spine are a natural part of the aging process. These soft tissues serve to protect the vertebrae and nerves of the spine from damage. As they wear away, the bones and nerves become more vulnerable to damage, which can lead to pain. Typical painful conditions that develop as a result of spondylosis include herniated discs, degenerative disc disease and spinal stenosis. Spondylosis can develop in any part of the spine (cervical, thoracic or lumbar).
Spondylitis is characterized by inflammation of the spine, specifically the spinal joints. Between each of our vertebrae there are hinge-like joints, called facet joints, which allow the spine to bend and move. As spondylitis sets in and inflames the joints, a patient feels stiffness and pain in his or her back. As the disease progresses, the inflammation may spread to other parts of the body, such as the joints between the ribs and the spine, hip joints, shoulder joints and knee joints. In advanced stages, the bones of the spine may actually fuse, making movement difficult and very painful.
Unlike spondylosis, which can affect almost anyone, spondylitis tends to affect men more than women and runs in families. Another difference between spondylosis and spondylitis is the age at which it begins. Spondylosis symptoms usually begin after age 50. The onset of spondylitis, on the other hand, typically happens between the ages of 20 and 40.
If spondylosis, spondylitis, or any other spinal condition is causing you chronic pain, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn more about how our minimally invasive procedures can help you find relief from neck or back pain.