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What Is Spondylosis?

Spondylosis is another word for osteoarthritis of the spine, a condition that usually develops with age, and is the result of normal “wear and tear” on both the soft structures and bones that make up the spine.

Although any part of the spine may be affected, spondylosis is more frequently seen in the spine’s highest and lowest sections – the cervical (neck) and lumbar (low back) areas, respectively. The condition is less commonly found in the thoracic spine (middle portion), possibly because the rib cage serves to stabilize this area and make it less subject to the effects of wear and tear over time.

Spondylosis | Live Well Chiropractic

What are the Symptoms of Spondylosis?

People with spondylosis experience may or may not experience pain or, indeed, any symptoms at all. Those who have no symptoms may become aware of the condition only when they are being assessed for another medical issue that calls for imaging of the spine with an X-ray, MRI, or CT scan. When symptoms are present, they vary depending on the area where the condition develops and the structures that are affected, but they can include pain or limited range of motion.

Individuals with spondylosis who are otherwise without pain may experience crepitus, a feeling or sound of crunching in the spine, along with a limited range of motion. This usually is not concerning for nerve or spinal cord damage.

What are the Symptoms of Cervical Spondylosis?

Neck pain and/or stiffness are common symptoms. In cases where spondylotic changes to the spine put pressure on adjacent nerves, patients may experience pain, numbness or tingling that extends down the arm, with or without symptoms in the neck itself. This type of nerve pain, which results from compression or inflammation of the nerve the cervical spine is known as cervical radiculopathy. Severe cases may also cause compression the spinal cord which may manifest as weakness or impaired motor function in the arms or hands, or other symptoms in a condition called cervical myelopathy.

What are the Symptoms of Lumbar Spondylosis?

Low back pain, leg pain and/or other signs of nerve compression are the most common symptoms. Pain or tingling symptoms that extend outward to the hip or down the leg can result from compression or inflammation of nerves, a condition referred to as lumbar radiculopathy. For example, a person may have pain in their knee and think it is injured, but later learn that this pain is caused by spondylosis that is compressing a nerve which extends down to the knee. Irritation of the sciatic nerve in particular, is quite common, and is commonly known as sciatica.

Is Spondylosis Serious?

Because spondylosis can affect people in many different ways, there is no single answer to this question. Many cases of spondylosis are effectively treated with physical therapy and pain relief measures. However, orthopedists advise seeking more immediate care if the following symptoms, which are associated with pressure on the nerves, are present:

  • weakness, including foot drop (difficulty lifting the toes and forefoot off the floor)
  • bladder or bowel dysfunction, especially incontinence
  • changes in balance that cannot be attributed to other factors
  • numbness either in a stripe-like pattern or involving the fingers
  • severe pain, especially electrical or shock like pain
  • pain in the arms and/or legs that has not responded after attempting other nonsurgical measures like physical therapy, oral pain medications and/or injections

Are some People more likely to Develop Spondylosis than Others?

Spondylosis is likely to affect most people to some degree as they age, as it is the natural result of years of the spine being subject to the forces of gravity. There may be a genetic component (an inherited tendency) to develop the condition, but research has not clearly established this link.

An association between traumatic injury to the spine and the development of spondylosis later in life has been established.

How is Spondylosis Diagnosed?

A diagnosis of spondylosis is based primarily on information seen on images of the spine: Changes to the bones are most clearly seen on X-ray, while changes to the soft structures – including the disks that act as cushions between the vertebrae – are more clearly seen on MRI or CT scans.

Abnormalities that may be detected include bone spurs, which are small growths of extra bone, or bulging or herniated discs. Both of these findings can cause narrowing in the spinal canal and put pressure on adjacent nerves. It’s important to note that wear and tear on the spine may show up on imaging tests, without the individual experiencing any pain or discomfort.

How can Chiropractic help with Spondylosis?

Chiropractic techniques are typically quite effective, and the good news is that they are non-surgical.

If you think you could have spondylosis, you should consult a chiropractor. A chiropractor can determine the root cause of spondylosis.

They can then design a therapy strategy to address the fundamental issue. Treatment will be tailored to the person’s symptoms.

The chiropractor aims to relieve pain while also improving posture and alignment by optimising excellent spinal mechanics.

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