Spondylosis: Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

What Is Spondylosis?

Spondylosis is an umbrella-term given to the gradual aging, and deterioration of the spine.

Spondylosis leads to the gradual disintegration of the vertebrae and discs of the spine. It is a progressive degenerative disease that causes the wear and tear of the spine. It is also referred to as osteoarthritis. It can cause changes such as bone spurs in the spine or degenerating intervertebral discs between the vertebrae. 

Difference between Spondylosis, Spondylitis and Spondylolisthesis

Spondylosis is commonly confused with spondylitis, which is an inflammation of one or more vertebrae. It is important to make this distinction as spondylosis is a degenerative disease, while spondylitis is an inflammatory disease. 

When a vertebra slips out of place and rests on the one below it, and causes spinal instability it is called Spondylolisthesis. It may put pressure on a nerve, which could cause lower back pain or leg pain.

Causes of Spondylosis

The causes of spondylosis are many:

  1. Aging

The main cause of spondylosis is aging. As we age, we wear down the ligaments and bones in our spine, as well as the intervertebral discs degenerate and weaken. It is very common, and over 80% of people over the age of 40 suffer from it. 

  1. Wrong Posture and Sedentary Lifestyle

Wrong posture can put undue stress on your spine and excessive wear and tear in certain parts of your spine. A sedentary lifestyle can weaken your muscles, especially in your back, abs & shoulders. Your spine can curve unnaturally to compensate for the added stress.

  1. Genetics

Genetics can play a role in the development of spondylosis. If many people in your family have spondylosis, you have a higher risk factor and a stronger genetic predisposition to spondylosis.

  1. Injuries and Repeated Trauma

Injuries can be a risk factor for spondylosis. Injuries can cause intervertebral discs to herniate and increase the risk of osteoarthritis. People who suffer from repeated trauma to their spine, like sportspersons have higher chances of having spondylosis.

Other causes of spondylosis are repeated heavy lifting, misalignment of joints, persistent stress on the spine, and spondylolisthesis.

Types Of Spondylosis

Spondylosis is classified into four sections according to which portion of the spine is affected by it. The different types of spondylosis are:

  1. Cervical Spondylosis

Spondylosis that affects the cervical vertebrae of the neck region is called cervical spondylosis. It is an extremely common type of spondylosis.

  1. Thoracic Spondylosis

If it affects the thoracic spine (upper and middle back region), it is called thoracic spondylosis. It is pretty rare and does not cause symptoms.

  1. Lumbar Spondylosis

Spondylosis that affects the lower back region is called lumbar spondylosis. This is the second most frequent type of spondylosis after cervical spondylosis. Spondylosis that affects below the lower back region (lumbar region) and extends to the midline between buttocks (sacral region), is called lumbosacral spondylosis.

  1. Multilevel Spondylosis

As the name suggests, multilevel spondylosis affects more than one particular region of the spine. 

Symptoms of Cervical Spondylosis

The most common symptom of cervical spondylosis is pain and stiffness in the neck and shoulder. The pain often increases when you cough, sneeze, tilt your head backwards or stand up suddenly.

In some cases, there can also be headaches. Getting a stiff neck in the morning or after long periods of inactivity is also a common symptom.

In very rare instances, this can result in compression of blood vessels to the brain, and can cause dizziness or blackouts.

Home Remedies for Immediate Relief for Cervical Spondylosis

Here are some home remedies you can try for immediate relief:

Regular Exercise and Good Posture:

Good posture ensures that there is no postural asymmetry or imbalance that can stress out certain portions of your spine. Regular exercise can strengthen your muscles and reduce the stress on your spine. This reduces the wear and tear on your vertebrae. 

However, start your exercises slowly and gently. Stop if there is any pain and consult a physiotherapist.

Hot and Cold Compresses:

Heat pads can help relax muscles and increase blood flow. This can help relax sore and tight muscles.

If there is inflammation, cold compresses can be used to reduce the swelling. Take care to not use the cold compress for more than a minute at a time.

Massages:

Massages can help relax your site muscles and improve flexibility. It is better to use lotion or oil when massaging to help ease the movements. While this is not a permanent solution, it can help ease chronic neck pain in the short term.

Soft Neck Brace:

You can wear a neck brace for short periods for temporary pain relief. Do not wear it for long periods as it can result in weaker neck muscles. You should consult a doctor before it's use.

These are short-term solutions and you should consult a doctor or physiotherapist if the pain persists.

Physiotherapy for Cervical Spondylosis

A physiotherapist assesses the extent of your spondylosis and general health and prescribes a personalized exercise plan. They will safely take you through the exercises to strengthen your neck, shoulder, back and chest muscles, without any injuries. About 75% of physiotherapy is successful for spondylosis and reduces pain & discomfort.

Along with exercises, a physiotherapist may recommend heat therapy, ultrasound therapy or electrical simulations to relax and strengthen your muscles as needed. For more information, visit our website.

Consult a doctor immediately if you feel tingling or numbness in your arms or legs all of a sudden. Get urgent medical care if you lose control of your arms, legs or bladder.