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What Is Spondylosis?


Spondylosis refers to the degeneration of your spine, which is a normal part of aging. Your spine is made of 33 vertebrae, starting from the base of your skull to your tailbone. The vertebrae are short bones stacked on top of one another with small circular discs of soft tissue in between each bone. These discs allow you the flexibility to move, sit, stand, bend and twist. Since you use your spine every day, it’s natural that over time the discs start to degenerate.

If you have neck, middle back or lower back pain that’s not relieved by at-home treatments, visit a spine specialist at the nearest spine pain center to determine if you have spondylosis or another debilitating back disorder. New Jersey’s top spine experts at Premier Brain & Spine specialize in both cervical and lumbar spondylosis treatments.

What Are the Symptoms of Spondylosis?

Degenerative Spondylosis

Degenerative disc disease and osteoarthritis are both considered forms of spondylosis, which may lead to other conditions, such as spinal stenosis or radiculopathy. The two common types of spondyloses are cervical and lumbar. Cervical refers to the neck, which is the first seven small vertebrae starting at the base of your skull. Lumbar refers to the lower back, around the hip area.

The most common symptoms are pain and stiffness. Symptoms may be ongoing every day or just appear sporadically. Symptoms of cervical spondylosis may include:

  • Headaches
  • Pain and stiffness in the neck
  • Popping sensation when turning your neck
  • Muscle spasms in your neck and shoulders
  • Weakness in your arms

Lumbar spondylosis symptoms are similar, but typically involve the lower part of your body. You may experience additional symptoms, such as:

  • Numbness, tingling and aching in your lower back and legs
  • Weakness in your legs
  • Difficulty walking
  • Trouble controlling your bladder and/or bowel functions
  • Severe pain in the mornings that resolve as the day goes on

Who’s at Risk of Getting Spondylosis?

Aging is the number one risk factor for developing spondylosis. So, the condition is most prevalent among those over the age of 60. Common changes to your back related to aging include:

  • Dehydrated discs. As you get past the age of 40, your discs start drying out and lose their cushioning properties.
  • Herniated discs. Cracks and weakening in the exterior section of the disc creates an opening that allows the softer core of the disc to escape.
  • Bone spurs. These are overgrowths of new bone material on current bones that create problems, such as a pinched nerve.
  • Stiff ligaments. Soft tissues become stiff as you age and can lead to limited flexibility, which affects your discs.

Not all spondylosis develops through the aging process. Other risk factors that can lead to early onset degenerative disc disease include:

  • Neck and lower back injuries
  • Untreated back pain
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Poor posture
  • Smoking
  • High-impact sports
  • Job-related repetitive motions involving frequent bending and lifting

What Are the Treatments for Spondylosis?

While aging and some level of spondylosis is irreversible, you can reduce their severity. Non-surgical and naturopathic treatments typically are the first line of treatment. Your experienced back pain doctor may recommend conservative treatments at first, such as:

  • Acupuncture
  • Physical therapy
  • Massages and chiropractic sessions
  • Alternating cold and heat applications
  • Rest
  • Lifestyle modifications

If those treatments prove ineffective at reducing your pain, additional treatment options become available, including

  • Prescription medications, such as narcotics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and muscle relaxants
  • Steroids, given by injection or taken orally
  • Antidepressants, which are effective for relieving pain

When non-surgical approaches aren’t effective, then the next step is usually exploring spine surgery options. Typically, surgery may be necessary when your spinal cord nerves are affected. Your NJ spine specialist conducts a thorough medical history and physical examination to determine if you’re a good candidate for a spine procedure, such as a:

    • Lumbar foraminotomy, enlarging the area between your spinal bones where there’s compression to allow nerves to pass through more easily
    • Laminectomy, removing a portion or all of a vertebra
    • Lumbar disc replacement, replacing the disc between the vertebrae
    • Spinal fusion, fusing one or two vertebrae together to prevent pain and add stability

Contact Premier Brain & Spine in New Jersey and New York to prioritize your spine care and help determine the best course of treatment for your spondylosis or your high-risk status.

Updated on Jul 27, 2022 by Dr. David Wells-Roth (Neurosurgeon) of Premier Brain & Spine

Premier Brain & Spine
10 Parsonage Rd, Suite 208A
Edison, NJ 08837
(732) 258-0190