What is Spondylosis?

By: Nikki Clayton, PT, DPT, ATC

What is Spondylosis?

The quick answer is Spondylosis is a problem with the spine. Spondylosis is a general term that may include issues such as:

It is commonly misspelled too.  We have seen folks spell it "spondyloysis", spondalosis, and even spondolysis. If you spelled it wrong, don't worry, you're not alone.  Let's dive in to the the nuts and bolts of problems with the spine. 

Click to learn about Spondylolysis.

Spondylosis is a general term that means problem in the spine.  It common from LAtin roots.  It is commonly misspelled spondyloysis", spondalosis, and spondolysis.  MRI images of Spondylosis

Areas affected by Spondylosis

Spondylosis can affect any level of the spine:

  • Cervical 
    • Comprised of 7 vertebrae in your neck ( C1 – C7)
  • Thoracic
    • Comprised of 12 vertebrae in your mid back from your shoulders to waist ( T1 – T12)
  • Lumbar
    • Comprised of 5 vertebrae in your low back ( L1 – L5)
  • Sacrum
    • Comprised of 5 vertebrae fused into one bone at the very tail of your spine between the hips down to your tailbone

The following structures in your spine are affected by Spondylosis:

  • Intervertebral Disc
    • Disks are the cushions that are between the spinal bones or vertebrae.  They give support and allow for movement of the spine.  the disk has a thick ligamentous material on the outer portion and a gelatinous material on the inside that has a lot of water in it portion but the inside is outer
  • Nerve Structures
    • Spinal cord and nerves
      • The spinal cord is an cable of nerves that travels through spine carrying messages between your brain and muscles
      • Nerve roots branch off the spinal cord through openings between each of the vertebrae
  • Facet Joints
    • Each vertebrae has four facet joints in the back of the bones.  They work like hinges that allow movement with the vertebrae above and below to allow the spine to extend, flex and rotate

If you want to learn more about the Anatomy of the Spine, this VIDEO may help.

What Causes Spondylosis?

Spondylosis can be from disc degeneration and loss of disc space.  This makes the disks weak and more prone to injury. Disc bulge from disc degeneration

The quick answer is that Spondylosis can come from excessive wear and tear in the spine.  Some of the changes can be a normal part of the aging process.  Other changes may be due to:

  • Unhealthy lifestyle
  • Obesity
  • Poor posture
  • Sedentary job
  • Extreme physical activity
  • Trauma or injury

Disc Degeneration or Degenerative Disk Disease

With age, the discs in the spine lose water causing the disc height to decrease. the discs begin to dry out and become weakened. When this happens, the bones sit slower together and the spaces where the nerves exit become smaller.  This can cause problems with the nerves.

What is Arthritis of the Spine?

The quick answer is wear and tear that causes inflammation in the joints of the spine. Degeneration of the discs results in increased pressure on the facet joints. This increased pressure causes the cartilage of the facet joints to wear away.  When the joints become damaged, they can become inflamed.  With severe arthritis, the cartilage can completely disappear and bone spurs may begin to grow or form. 

What are the Symptoms of Spondylosis?

Spondylosis can cause pain, stiffness, numbness, weakness, and limited functional independence.Symptoms of Spondylosis

The quick answer is symptoms of Spondylosis include:

  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Loss of muscle strength

Your symptoms will depend on where the Spondylosis is affecting your spine.  Spondylosis commonly occurs in the neck and the low back. Because the neck supports the weight of the head throughout a wide range of movements makes it more susceptible. The low back is also prone to develop spondylosis because it supports and distributes a majority of the body's weight.

More severe symptoms of Spondylosis can lead to nerve compression and loss of normal daily function. Some emergency symptoms to be aware of are:

  • Intolerable pain
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control
  • Weakness in a specific muscle pattern
  • Loss of feeling
  • Inability to stand
  • Pain that wakes you at night

If you have any of these symptoms you should see you doctor immediately.

How is Spondylosis Treated?

The quick answer is conservative treatment is used when possible to treat spondylosis.

  • Pain medications, anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxants
  • Physical therapy
    • Use of specific exercises that will help relieve pain, increase mobility, increase strength and flexibility in spinal muscle to better support the spine and promote improved posture and relieve nerve compression in your spine.
    • Soft tissue massage to release tension in the muscles, tendons and ligaments
    • Heat pack
      • To promote increased blood flow to target area to promote increase oxygen and nutrients to involved area
    • Cold pack
      • To reduce circulation to help control inflammation, decrease pain and muscle spasms
    • Electrical Stimulation 
      • To reduce sensation of pain and muscle spasms
  • Bracing
    • Temporary treatment option used to help take pressure off spine, control pain by limiting motion, and help relax muscles 
    • Long term use not recommended as muscles will start to "depend" on brace and cause muscles to weaken

Surgery for Spondylosis

There are cases when surgery is needed to correct issues form Spondylosis.  If a patient does not respond to physical therapy or injections/meds, surgery may be needed.  Surgery may be used to open the space in the spinal canal that may be limited by bone spurs or arthritis.  Is cases of severe disc degeneration, a spinal fusion may be needed to stabilize the segment and limit movement. 

A spinal fusion is a procedure that placed hardware and bone graft to permanently fuse 2 spine bones together.  The image is of the STALIF M TI device.Image of Spinal Fusion Hardware

To learn about Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion surgery, Read the Article.

Doctors for Spondylosis in Jacksonville, FL

 The Jacksonville Orthopedic Institute has the Area's top Spine Doctors and they are ready to help you!   If you have back or neck pain, or think you may have spondylosis, we can help. Come see the same doctors and therapists that the Jacksonville Jaguars choose. 

To make and appointment with a JOI Spine Specialist, call (904)JOI-2000, schedule online or click below for an appointment.



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