Spondylosis symptoms and diagnosis
If you have just received a diagnosis of spondylosis, you may have questions as to what exactly that means. Spondylosis isn’t a specific disease — rather, it is an umbrella term that describes a variety of age-related, degenerative spine conditions, including degenerative disc disease and spinal osteoarthritis.
Accordingly, spondylosis symptoms vary depending on the specific injury or disease that is present. The common thread of all conditions under the spondylosis “umbrella” is the deterioration of cartilage in the facet joints, which are the joints in the spine that join the vertebrae together.
The symptoms of spondylosis can vary greatly from patient to patient. For example, spinal osteoarthritis can prompt neck and back stiffness, aching and pain in the facet joints, while a herniated disc can cause localized pain plus discomfort, numbness, muscle weakness and tingling from nerve root compression. The location of the spondylosis also can affect where symptoms are felt.
The diagnosis of spondylosis
The process of diagnosing spondylosis typically begins with a physician asking questions about the patient’s medical history, symptoms and overall health. This physician will also gauge the patient’s range of motion and nerve function. If results indicate spinal degeneration, imaging tests — such as an MRI, X-ray or CT scan — will likely be performed to take a closer look at the spine and identify the specific problem (osteoarthritis, collapsed disc, etc.).
Treatment of spondylosis
Once spondylosis is diagnosed, most physicians will first recommend conservative treatments to address symptoms and slow degeneration. These treatments often include:
- Physical therapy to strengthen the muscles surrounding the spine and relieve pressure on the vertebrae
- Pain medication, either in the form of pills or epidural shots, to alleviate discomfort
- Weight loss to take pressure off the joints and improve muscle strength, helping sustain the spine
Some patients explore alternative treatments, such as chiropractic adjustments, massage therapy, yoga, acupuncture and herbal supplements. It is important to consult with a physician prior to beginning one of these therapies, however, as some therapies may interfere with prescribed medical treatments.
Patients whose symptoms do not respond to conservative techniques may require surgery to stabilize the spine and relieve nerve compression. At Laser Spine Institute, our board-certified surgeons+ offer minimally invasive alternatives to traditional open spine surgeries. Our outpatient procedures are performed through a less than one-inch incision using muscle-sparing techniques, thereby reducing the risk of excessive scar tissue and lengthy recovery periods^ of traditional open spine surgery.