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.

You may be prescribed a round of physical therapy or a short course of a painkiller or muscle relaxant. Surgery is only required if conservative treatments fail or if you have worsening signs of nerve compression.

Traditional short-course pain medications for spondylosis

The most common short-course pain medications for spondylosis include:

  • Celecoxib (Celebrex)
  • Diclofenac (Voltaren)
  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab)
  • Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
  • Indomethacin (Indocin, Indocin SR)
  • Naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn)
  • Oxycodone (Percocet, Roxicet)

Muscle relaxants

Your medical practitioner may prescribe a muscle relaxant instead of a traditional pain relieving medication. These include:

  • Carisoprodol (Soma, Vanadom)
  • Cyclobenzaprine (Fexmid, Flexeril)
  • Methocarbamol (Robaxin)

Nerve pain medications

Some medications focus specifically on nerve pain and include:

  • Duloxetine (Cymbalta)
  • Gabapentin (Neurontin)
  • Pregabalin (Lyrica)

Other drugs for chronic pain

In addition to NSAIDs and muscle relaxants, several other specific drugs have been found particularly effective for chronic pain and include:

  • Carbamazepine (Carbatrol, Equetro, Tegretol)
  • Phenytoin (Dilantin, Phenytek, Di-Phen)

Nonsurgical pain interventions

In cases of uncontrolled pain, steroid and anesthetic delivery procedures can help relieve chronic pain without requiring surgery. These procedures include:

  • Corticosteroid injection, usually cortisone (Celestone, Kenalog)
  • Neck brace or lumbar orthopedic device
  • Physical therapy
  • Traction (in severe cases)

Surgical interventions

In cases of uncontrolled pain, loss of movement, loss of sensation, or loss of bladder or bowel control, surgery to take pressure off spinal nerves or the spinal cord may be immediately necessary.

What you can do to improve your spondylosis

In addition to following your treatment regimen as prescribed by your medical practitioner, you may also be able to reduce your pain and increase mobility by:

  • Applying ice or heat
  • Attending physical therapy as recommended
  • Practicing exercises as advised by your medical practitioner
  • Wearing a cervical collar (in some cases)

Complementary treatments

Some complementary treatments may help some people to better deal with spondylosis. These treatments, sometimes referred to as alternative therapies, are used in conjunction with traditional medical treatments. Complementary treatments are not meant to substitute for full medical care.

Complementary treatments may include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Massage therapy
  • Yoga

What are the potential complications of spondylosis?

Complications of untreated or poorly controlled spondylosis can be serious. You can help minimize your risk of serious complications by following the treatment plan you and your health care professional design specifically for you. Complications of spondylosis include:

  • Chronic, debilitating pain
  • Fecal incontinence
  • Permanent disability (rare)
  • Urinary incontinence


Cervical spondylosis (arthritis of the neck). AAOS: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Accessed May 15, 2011.

Cervical spondylosis. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. Accessed May 15, 2011.


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... Read more about spondylosisintroduction


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

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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