Spondylosis, also known as degenerative spinal arthritis or spinal osteoarthritis, is often caused by the natural degeneration of the spine.
As the spine ages, the vertebrae of the spine may experience compression from weight gain or repetitive movements. This compression adds pressure to the vertebrae and the facet joints found between them. These joints allow the vertebrae to bend and move, and also cushion the vertebrae with cartilage so the bones do not impact each other. However, under continued compression, the facet joints may wear down, allowing the surrounding vertebrae to impact each other with movement.
Over time, as the vertebrae rub together with every movement of the spine, small growths called bone spurs may form. Bone spurs may be completely unnoticeable if they do not impact a nearby nerve root. However, if a nerve root is impacted, severe pain and symptoms can occur.
Because the symptoms are similar, spondylosis is sometimes misdiagnosed as degenerative disc disease. Degenerative disc disease is the breakdown of the discs between vertebrae rather than the cartilage between facet joints. Spondylosis also should not be confused with rheumatoid arthritis in the spine, a less common, although potentially more severe, autoimmune disease of joint tissue. Also, keep in mind that osteoarthritis is not the same condition as osteoporosis, which is the loss of bone mass over time.
While neck or back pain caused by these similar conditions and others can resemble the symptoms of osteoarthritis of the spine, there are specific signs that could point to spondylosis. These signs include:
- The sensation of bone rubbing on bone
- Weakness or numbness in the legs, as with lumbar spine arthritis with spurring
- Numbness or tingling in the arms or hands, as with cervical spine arthritis with spurring
- Diminished joint flexibility
- Intermittent joint pain that eases with movement
If you’re experiencing neck or back pain, you should consult your physician. He or she will likely use a physical examination, combined with spinal imaging and blood tests, to determine the origin and nature of your pain.
First steps of treatment for spondylosis
Once a diagnosis of spondylosis is made, the physician will likely recommend that your condition be treated nonsurgically with exercise and stretching, as well as pain medication. For mild spondylosis, this will allow the spine to lengthen and the pressure to be relieved from the vertebrae, which will help your spine heal naturally. However, more severe cases of spondylosis may require a different form of treatment if pain relief is not experienced after several months.
If these nonsurgical treatment options prove ineffective against chronic pain, your physician may suggest surgery as an alternative. Before you make a decision, be sure to investigate all spondylosis surgical options thoroughly, including those offered at Laser Spine Institute.
At Laser Spine Institute, we offer several options for minimally invasive spine surgery that are safer and effective alternatives to traditional open back surgery^. As the leader in minimally invasive spine surgery, we boast a 98 patient satisfaction score^ for our minimally invasive procedures.
Contact Laser Spine Institute for information about our minimally invasive surgical procedures and for a review of your MRI or CT scan.