A form of arthritis, spondylosis refers to degenerative changes in the spine such as bone spurs and degenerative intervertebral rises between the vertebrae. This can happen when discs and joints degenerate when bone spurs grow on the vertebrae or both. These changes can impair the spine’s movement and affect the nerves and other functions.
Cervical spondylosis is the most common type of progressive disorder, affecting the neck during aging. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, more than 85% of people over 60 have cervical spondylosis. Other types of spondylosis develop in various parts of the spine, including:
- Thoracic spondylosis – affecting the middle of the spine.
- Lumbar spondylosis – affecting the lower back.
- Multilevel spondylosis – affecting more than one part of the spine.
Spinal osteoarthritis is another term for spondylosis, describing arthritis that results from overuse or natural aging process. This can affect any joint in the body.
Your spine helps to give your body structure and supports most of its weight. It also carries and protects many of the nerve branches that run from the brain. Your spine is curved, not straight, and the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar parts of the spine contain 24 bones that are known as your vertebrae. Between these vertebrae are joints that allow the spine to move flexibly, called facet joints, and soft, rubbery tissue, called intervertebral discs.
As a person ages, the discs lose fluid content, becoming more thin, and lose some of their cushioning ability. This is why an older person is more likely to have a compression fracture of the vertebra than a younger person. As the cartilage erodes, the bones start to rub together which can result in bone spurs, making back movements less smooth and causing an increase in friction and pain.
Spondylosis Risk Factors
Daily wear and tear over time is the general cause of spondylosis, and these changes affect people differently depending on their risk factors. Some risk factors include:
- Having a sedentary lifestyle, with lack of exercise.
- Having injured the spine, or undergone spinal surgery.
- Having a job that requires repetitive or weight-bearing movements, involving the spine.
- Having a genetic tendency.
- Having obesity or being overweight.
- Having anxiety or depression.
- Having psoriatic arthritis.
Symptoms of Spondylosis
Many people with age-related spondylosis do not experience any symptoms. Some have symptoms for a while that then go away, and sometimes, a sudden movement can trigger symptoms. While common symptoms include stiffness and mild pain, more severe symptoms can include:
- Weakness in the hands or legs.
- Poor coordination.
- Muscle spasms and pain.
- Loss of balance and difficulty walking.
- Loss of bladder or bowel control.
- A grinding or popping feeling when moving the spine.
A doctor may suggest surgery only if symptoms are severe and persistent, and if no other treatment has helped. Surgery may be necessary if pinched nerves result in serious numbness, weakness, or loss of bowel or bladder control, and if the damage is likely to get worse without surgery.
If you suffer from any of these symptoms or are looking for more information, Atlantic Physical Therapy can help! Their highly qualified physical therapists can conduct an evaluation of your symptoms and match you with the treatment that you need. Contact the experts at Atlantic Physical Therapy to schedule an appointment.