Degenerative spondylosis almost always describes arthritis of the spine, but can refer to other conditions that are caused by age-related breakdown. It’s important to keep in mind that this degeneration is not what directly causes the painful symptoms of numbness, tingling and weakness. Rather, spondylosis sufficiently weakens joints, vertebrae and discs to the point where they can become damaged and compress nearby spinal nerves. Spondylosis may also refer to the deterioration of the cartilage that coats the facet joints between the vertebrae. As cartilage wears away, neck (cervical vertebrae) and back (lumbar and thoracic vertebrae) movement can become stiff and painful.
If degenerative spondylosis isn’t causing my pain, what is?
Your physician will try to pinpoint the exact location and cause of your neck or back pain by following a series of diagnostic procedures, including:
- Medical history — This includes personal medical history and family history. Tell your physician what medications you’re taking, if you’ve had any serious illnesses or surgical procedures in the past or if you’ve recently experienced any injuries, even minor ones.
- Physical exam — The physician will feel for areas that are swollen, warm or sensitive to the touch. There will also be a visual exam where your physician will check for abnormal spine curvature or problems with flexibility and range of motion.
- Review of symptoms — Be honest and accurate when your physician asks you to describe your symptoms. Specify the location, frequency, severity and nature of the pain you feel. Be clear about whether your discomfort is constant or if certain movements trigger it.
- Medical imaging — Once a diagnosis has been narrowed down to a section of the spine (cervical, thoracic or lumbar), an MRI or CT scan can help the physician see exactly which vertebrae, discs or joints are affected.
Treating degenerative spondylosis
If you are diagnosed with degenerative spondylosis, you and your doctor will likely develop a conservative treatment plan as the first step. Most patients find that a course of methods such as gentle exercise, yoga and over-the-counter pain medication can effectively manage their symptoms. However, if you attempt these treatments with no significant improvement in pain after weeks or months, your physician may then recommend surgery.
For the patients whose degenerative spine condition has not improved over time, there is Laser Spine Institute. We have developed minimally invasive decompression and minimally invasive stabilization procedures that offer fewer risks and faster recuperation times§ compared to traditional open spine surgeries. Our procedures are often the clinically appropriate surgical first choice compared to open back surgery and are performed on an outpatient basis. Contact us today to learn more about our procedures and how they can potentially treat your degenerative spondylosis.