What is spondylosis?

Spondylosis is a wearing down or degeneration of the spine caused by wear and tear on the joints. Deterioration most frequently involves the cartilage and bones in either the cervical spine (joints of the neck), sometimes referred to as cervical spondylosis, or the lumbar spine, sometimes referred to as lumbar degenerative disc disease. Spondylosis can also affect the middle section of the spine, called the thoracic spine.

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Degeneration of the spine is most commonly caused by normal wear and tear, which is why it is far more common for people over age 60 to have symptoms of spondylosis. However, degeneration can begin as early as age 30, and there are many cases of lumbar symptoms appearing by age 40. This degeneration can be associated with several other phenomena, such as spinal stenosis (abnormal narrowing of the spinal canal), osteoarthritis of the spinal joints, or degenerative disc disease, in which the disc dries out (becomes dehydrated) and loses functionality.

Spondylosis cannot be cured, but pain management and physical therapy, and in some cases surgery, can improve your mobility and comfort.

Spondylosis is not life threatening, but in some cases it can lead to nerve damage that can be debilitating. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms of nerve compression, such as loss of sensation in the limbs or shoulders, a complete loss of balance, or loss of bladder or bowel control. Also seek immediate care for serious symptoms, such as abnormal sensations or sudden weakness or numbness on one side of the body, paralysis, and changes in level of consciousness.

Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for spondylosis but mild symptoms recur or are persistent.


What are the symptoms of spondylosis?

Symptoms of spondylosis include spinal pain and stiffness in the back or neck that gets worse over time, occasional headaches, and, in some cases, pain in your shoulders and arms. This pain can sometimes be quite severe.... Read more about spondylosissymptoms


What causes spondylosis?

The most frequent cause of spondylosis is a natural degeneration of the cartilage and bones of the spine as a result of excessive wear and tear, which is nearly always a natural result of aging. Extreme athletics can exacerbate this degeneration, but in nearly all cases wear and tear over the years is the cause. Over time, the discs become dehydrated and lose the ability to act as cushions between spinal bones. The painful grating of bone against bone often causes the bones to develop growths called bone spurs to replace the missing cartilage. These bone spurs can press on... Read more about spondylosiscauses


How is spondylosis treated?

Spondylosis is not curable, but in many cases the symptoms may decrease or stabilize on their own. Treatment is aimed at relieving pain to help you participate in as many of your normal activities as possible, and occasionally surgical treatment may be required to prevent permanent nerve or spinal cord damage.... Read more about spondylosistreatments

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Bones, Joints and Muscles

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