What is spondylosis?
Spondylosis is a term with several meanings. For some medical professionals, it refers to any type of age-related spinal deterioration. For others, it is more specific and used as another name for spinal osteoarthritis, or the breakdown of cartilage that lines the joints of the spine. Because this cartilage helps the bones move smoothly against one another, its loss can reduce the body’s range of motion.
How is a spondylosis diagnosis made?
Whichever definition of spondylosis a physician uses, it is usually diagnosed through a medical history, physical exam and one or more imaging scans. A CT scan, MRI or X-ray may be recommended to determine which elements of the spine are involved and to rule out other potential sources of pain.
Possible spondylosis causes
For most people, spondylosis is related to the aging process. As the years go by, the spine simply degenerates due to wear and tear, although this does not develop at the same rate for everyone. Some people have more severe degeneration issues or are more susceptible to experiencing spondylosis earlier in their lives because of factors such as repetitive strain, bad posture, obesity, impacts to the spinal column and genetic traits.
This condition may go unnoticed because it doesn’t always produce symptoms. When spinal osteoarthritis causes complications, it is usually because bone spurs have grown around the worn-down cartilage, leading to a loss of flexibility and perhaps pain.
General spondylosis, depending on the portion of the spinal column affected and which particular components are involved, can lead to localized pain. If a herniated disc, thickened ligament or bone spur places pressure on a nerve root or the spinal cord, it can cause problems anywhere down the affected nerve, including:
- Weakness or problems moving
- Numbness or tingling sensations
- Pain (can be shooting, dull or burning)
When treatment is necessary to manage pain and other symptoms, it is usually limited to conservative (nonsurgical) approaches. Although it can be beneficial to rest when experiencing the discomfort often associated with this condition, physicians typically recommend only limited periods of inactivity. Other doctor-recommended options for managing symptoms in the long term include regular stretching and exercise, physical therapy, medications to reduce pain and inflammation. Some patients seek alternative measures like acupuncture and yoga, but it is important to keep your doctor informed of any new treatments you seek.
When surgery becomes an option
For many people with spondylosis, surgery isn’t needed to find significant improvement from symptoms. However, surgery can actually address the underlying structural cause of the symptoms, so it can provide a helpful option for people who see no improvement after trying conservative treatment methods for weeks or months. People who are considering surgery should always examine the full range of possibilities available to them. In the case of spine surgery, there are traditional open spine options, but there is also minimally invasive spine surgery at Laser Spine Institute. Our procedures offer patients a shorter recovery time^ and less risk of complication for our patients because we use muscle-sparing techniques.
If you’d like to learn about Laser Spine Institute and the spondylosis surgery options that we provide at our Cincinnati location, contact us today. We offer a no-cost MRI review* that can help you determine if you are a candidate for minimally invasive spine surgery.