What is the difference between spondylitis and spondylosis?

Many patients are confused by the similarity of the terms spondylitis and spondylosis. When researching spine conditions, it is important to research the correct condition for you. Often, patients diagnosed with spondylitis may have spent all of their time researching spondylosis, which can be frustrating and potentially interfere with your treatment.

At Laser Spine Institute, we believe in patient-centered care, which begins with educating our patients about spine conditions so they can make informed decisions about their medical needs. For this reason, we want to take a moment to explain the difference between spondylitis and spondylosis so our patients can spend time researching the correct medical condition in order to take proactive steps toward finding a treatment solution.

Clarification of terms

Spondylitis is a term used to describe a group of arthritic spine conditions that cause inflammation in the joints and vertebrae. Spondylitis has no known cause, but there is evidence of a genetic component. In severe cases of spondylitis, the arthritis will deteriorate the joints, causing the vertebrae to fuse together and limit mobility in that section of the spine. There is no known cure for spondylitis, but several forms of treatment that can help reduce pain and increase mobility at the site of the condition.
Spondylosis is a broader term referring to degenerative age-related conditions affecting the spine such as osteoarthritis or degenerative disc disease. It is often caused by general wear and tear of the spine, such as vertebrae compressing over time and deteriorating the discs found between the vertebrae. Spondylosis can lead to compression of nerves in the spinal column, causing severe and chronic pain in the back and extremities.

Symptoms of spondylitis and spondylosis

Symptoms of spondylitis differ based on the cause and severity of the condition. However, the most common symptoms include:

  • Pain and stiffness in back
    Limited mobility
  • Abnormal curvature of the spine
  • Limited range of motion for spine
  • Local and radiating pain in the back, hip, and/or extremities

Symptoms of spondylosis also differ based on the individual and the severity of the spine condition. Most patients experience the following symptoms:

  • Limited flexibility
  • Tingling, numbness and weakness in extremities
  • Difficulty walking

Schedule an appointment with your physician to discuss your symptoms to help your physician determine the nature and severity of your condition. Together, you can create a treatment plan that will fit your needs and your lifestyle. Patients diagnosed with either of these conditions are often able to find relief through a course of conservative treatments, with surgery being seen as a last resort.

Laser Spine Institute provides minimally invasive spine surgery for spondylosis and related conditions, but we do not treat spondylitis. If you have been diagnosed with spondylosis and are being recommended for surgery, our dedicated team can offer a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.