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What Is Spondylosis?

Spondylosis, also called spinal osteoarthritis, is an age-related condition that occurs when the discs — those shock absorbers in your spine — or vertebral bones degenerate. This type of arthritis mostly affects facet joints, which are the points where your vertebrae connect. Degeneration of your spine’s intervertebral discs, due to loss of fluid from a rupture or a leak, is also common.

Due to the pain and discomfort that this spinal condition causes, the best doctors recommend early diagnosis for successful spondylosis treatment. If you experience nagging back pain, don’t ignore it. Find a back doctor like Dr. Branko Skovrlj, an experienced neurosurgeon at NU-Spine, The Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery Institute, a minimally invasive spine surgery practice in Edison, New Jersey.

Where Does Spondylosis Strike?

When facet joints wear away and the intervertebral discs are damaged, what’s left is the protective cartilage. Since it’s not as sturdy as the bones, it wears away quickly. This leads to stiffness, pain or a limited range of motion.

Spondylosis can develop in different sections of the spine. For each region of the spine the condition appears, it’s given a different name, such as:

  • Cervical spondylosis. Age-related degeneration that affects the joints and discs in your neck. Called cervical facet syndrome when it affects your vertebrae or cervical bulging disc with the problem lies with your discs, it’s the most common form of spondylosis, and it affects as many as 85 percent of people older than 60.
  • Lumbar spondylosis. This condition refers to the wearing down of joints or the herniation of discs in your lower back.
  • Thoracic spondylosis: This condition affects upper back and mid-back regions of your spine. Thoracic disc herniation is just as painful and limiting as the other forms of the disease.
  • Lumbosacral This type of bone and disc degeneration affects your low back and sacrum. The sacrum is the vestige of your tailbone. It sits at the very bottom of your spine, where it connects to your pelvic bone. The sacrum stabilizes the pelvis, so if those vertebrae degenerate, it causes all kinds of problems and pain.

Am I Suffering from Spondylosis?

Spondylosis affects your quality of life. To treat it successfully, you need early diagnosis and treatment. The symptoms vary, depending on the spinal region affected. Warning signs for this back problem include:

  • Paresthesia or abnormal sensations, which include a tingling sensation, numbness or weakness in your legs or feet, arms or hands
  • Poor coordination and difficulty walking
  • Stiffness after a period of rest
  • Pain around your shoulder blade that increases when sitting, sneezing, coughing, standing or tilting your neck
  • Muscle weakness
  • A loss of bladder or bowel control, in extreme cases

Why Does Spondylosis Occur?

In a healthy spine, the vertebrae, intervertebral discs, facet joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments work smoothly to allow fluid movement of your back. When your facet joints or intervertebral discs degrade or change, it creates inflammation. When anything around your spine swells, it can cause compressed nerves, leading to pain both in your back and in your extremities.

This condition is known as spondylosis. It occurs due to:

  • Wear and tear of the cartilage from osteoarthritis. It affects the surface of facet joints between vertebrae. Once the cartilage is gone, the bones start to rub together. This leads to the development of bone spurs.
  • Degeneration of intervertebral discs. As the outer lining of a disc thins or cracks, it loses fluid, which leaks out into the surrounding tissue, where it can impinge a nerve.
  • Vertebral compression fracture. If you suffer an injury to your spine, one of your vertebrae may fracture, due to a bone collapsing in the spine.
  • A spinal injury. Trauma due to an injury can damage the discs and bones of your spine.
  • Slipped disks. A slipped, herniated or prolapsed disc is not just painful, it often requires surgery to repair.
  • Ligament stiffness. Stiff ligaments pull against the bones in your spine. It’s a painful condition, but usually doesn’t require surgery.

What Are the Risk Factors for Getting Spondylosis?

While a back injury can happen to anyone, some people are more at risk for spondylosis than others. Your risk increases due to:

  • Genetic factors
  • Being obese or overweight
  • Your age if you’re over 60
  • Having psoriatic arthritis
  • A lack of exercise
  • Suffering back pain from a previous spinal surgery
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Doing repetitive weight lifting
  • Having a mental health condition, such as depression

The spinal treatment team at NU-Spine uses advanced medical procedures to improve the outcome of your spinal spondylosis treatment. The goal is to get you back on your feet, and Dr. Skovrlj works with you during every step of the treatment process until you reach your goals.

How Can Spondylosis Be Treated?

An expert spinal surgeon like Dr. Skovrlj first carries out physical and neurological examinations. Tests may include x-rays, an MRI or a CT scan. Treatment for this spinal degeneration depends on the results of the diagnosis and where your problem lies. For example:

  • For cervical spondylosis treatment, a non-operative approach is the first option. It includes pain medication, physical therapy, exercises and weight-loss training.
  • For thoracic or lumbar spondylosis treatment, or if the non-surgical treatment doesn’t produce desired results, Dr. Skovrlj may recommend minimally invasive spine surgery.
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