Man's back facing camera

What is spondylosis?

The term “spondylosis” describes spinal degeneration. It is a broad term that is more of a description than a specific diagnosis, as there are different types of spinal degeneration. The one most commonly referred to as spondylosis is osteoarthritis of the spine.

What are the symptoms?

Spondylosis can cause radiculopathy (pinched nerve), which can produce symptoms like pain (often severe) in the back, neck, shoulder, or limbs, muscle weakness and paresthesia. The patient might also experience stiffness after waking up.

Less commonly, it manifests as myelopathy, which can cause loss of balance, an unusual gait and incontinence. It can occur in any part of the spine (cervical, thoracic, lumbar or lumbosacral) and can affect the facet joints and intervertebral discs. If a disc herniates, it can compress spinal nerves.

What causes spondylosis?

Spondylosis is produced over many years by pressure placed on the spine. This pressure may come from sports, bad posture, or other sources. Unnatural stress on the spine causes the bone to grow in new ways to compensate for weight distribution, and over time, this will lead to spondylosis.

If bone spurs develop, these can compress nerves, causing symptoms like pain and tingling sensations to manifest. Being overweight also puts pressure on the spine, and this can be a factor in spondylosis developing.

How can one prevent it?

It is difficult to prevent, as it occurs with ageing and general wear and tear, and it is thought that injury and genetics may also be factors. That said, trying to maintain good posture and taking care when lifting heavy objects are preventative measures you can take throughout life, but even if you do everything right, there is no guarantee you won’t develop spinal osteoarthritis.

What is the treatment for spondylosis?

Pain medication, anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxants are frequently prescribed. Other treatments include physical therapy (e.g. massage, ice/heat, ultrasound therapy), instruction in how to maintain a good posture, and exercises to improve flexibility, endurance and strength in the spine.

It is recommended that the patient lose weight if they are overweight and before doing exercise they stretch and warm up as appropriate.

In extreme cases, when nerve compression is becoming so bad that the arms and legs are becoming numb, spine surgery may be recommended. However, this is rare.

You can book an appointment here with one of our expert orthopaedic surgeons if you're worried that you're showing symptoms of spondylosis. 

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