In every human body, the spine serves many functions, especially in terms of movement and posture.
In addition to protecting the spinal cord and nerve roots, it protects several body organs, provides structural support and balance, and enables flexible motion.
The spine is an organ that does so much on a day-to-day basis. Hence, it is unfortunately not immune to the wear and tear that happens to our body and internal organs due to aging, an uncontrollable factor.
This means that as we age, the discs and joints found in the spine degrade as well, resulting in a progressive disorder called spondylosis.
Spondylosis is a disease that affects the spine’s joints and discs, impairs the spine’s movement, and affects the nerves.
According to reports by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, over 85 percent of people over 60 have cervical spondylosis.
But, what is spondylosis? Worry not. Today, we’ll help you understand everything you need to know about this disease, including spondylosis symptoms, the risk factors, and ways to treat and possibly prevent the disease.
What is Spondylosis?
Spondylosis is a health condition that occurs when the spinal discs gradually wear down over time.
For us humans, our spine is a column composed of 33 bones known as vertebrae. Located between these vertebrae are joints that allow the spine to move flexibly—facet joints.
In addition, the spine contains soft, cushion-like pads called discs, which help cushion the bones and ensure smooth movement.
However, a person’s facet joints may begin to malfunction as he or she ages, and the intervertebral discs may lose their cushioning abilities.
As time goes on, it is possible for these changes to gradually press down or compress one or more nerve roots over time.
In some cases, and mostly depending on the severity of the condition, it might involve the spinal cord and further affect the arms and the legs.
This gradual deterioration of the discs and joints between the vertebral bodies is known as spondylosis.
Essentially, Spondylosis is:
- The natural process of aging
- A form of arthritis.
- Reduces the flexibility and height of the disc.
What are the Causes of Spondylosis?
As we’ve already established, age is the primary factor responsible for the disease.
This is because, through the years, your spine can suffer serious damage due to the stress and strain it receives from everyday life.
Apart from this, some other factors that cause and put you at risk for spondylosis include:
Unfortunately, having a family history of spondylosis drastically increases your risk of developing the disease. So, if you have or had a family member with spondylosis, chances are you may also experience spondylosis-associated back or neck pain as you grow older.
People who smoke are also at a greater risk for this disease because continuous smoking weakens the blood vessels needed by the spinal discs for nourishment. Since cigarettes contain a high amount of nicotine, smoking can harm your brain, cause malnutrition in cells, and ultimately damage your spinal discs.
The way you live plays a significant role in your health. Like smoking, other factors like work, exercise, and nutrition also affect your bone health. Furthermore, occupational and recreational activities that involve repetitive movements or heavy lifting can also cause early deterioration of the spine.
In most cases, spondylosis results from natural causes, but some damage to the spine can also be caused by trauma or injuries. A neck injury sustained in a car accident or fall can speed up the aging process of the spine and cause spondylosis or exacerbate symptoms.
Dehydrated Spinal Discs
Your spinal discs have gel-like material inside them, which can dry out over time and cause your bones to rub against one another, causing pain. Sadly, you can begin to experience this process as early as your 30s, and it will only continue to deteriorate with age.
As you age, your weight plays a role in the development of arthritis and bone spurs. This is because excess weight puts additional pressure on the structures in your spine, causing them to degenerate more quickly.
What are the symptoms of Spondylosis?
Spondylosis symptoms vary from person to person and often depend on where it occurs.
While most people don’t always experience symptoms related to spondylosis, some people do experience them. These symptoms majorly include pain or stiffness in the neck or back.
Also, for some people, the symptoms may develop slowly and progress over time, but for others, they may happen suddenly.
In some cases, a sudden movement can trigger symptoms, and when these symptoms occur, they typically include neck pain and stiffness.
Nonetheless, some other common symptoms of spondylosis include:
- Feelings of weakness or numbness in the arms, hands, legs, or feet
- Grinding feeling when moving the spine
- Lack of coordination
- Frequent muscle spasms
- Poor balance
- Neck pain or stiffness
- Pain standing for any length of time
- Pain walking, bending, or lifting
- Burning, tingling sensations from the buttock and lower back down the leg
- loss of bladder or bowel control
- A nagging soreness in the neck
If you develop or are currently experiencing these symptoms, it is important that you contact your doctor right away to get a diagnosis and begin treatment.
Detecting the problem early is the key to preventing irreversible damage to your neurological system.
How is Spondylosis diagnosed?
To diagnose spondylosis, your healthcare provider will first request that you perform a physical exam to determine if any other signs may point to the disease.
During this exam, they may check your
- Muscle strength
- Reflexes and
- Bumps or knots in the muscles of your neck and shoulder.
Based on the findings from this exam, they may then request a series of tests to detect what may be causing some of your symptoms.
Some of these tests can include:
- Blood tests to check for specific substances in your blood that may indicate rheumatoid arthritis or other conditions that contribute to spondylosis.
- X-rays to detect bone spurs and spinal compression. It can also help rule out other causes of your discomfort, such as a spine tumor.
- CT scans provide a much more detailed view of your body and allow your doctor to detect any problems easily. Here at Craft Body Scan, we offer full body scan services which help give a better view of your spinal canal and help spot bone spurs.
- Electromyography (EMG) – In this test, small, thin needles are inserted into the muscles of the arms and legs to measure electrical activity and function. By performing this test, it’s possible to determine whether spondylosis is affecting the spinal nerve.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) makes it possible to see the spinal compression or herniated disk more clearly than X-rays. An MRI is the best diagnostic test for these types of conditions.
How is Spondylosis treated?
Following a spondylosis diagnosis, your healthcare provider will be in the best position to let you know the treatment most suitable for your condition.
Some people might only experience mild and occasional pain or stiffness which will not require treatment.
However, for others who need a way to deal with the pain of the disease, here are some treatment options that work.
Non-Surgical Treatment for Spondylosis
- Your physician can recommend pain management specialists, physiatrists, or neuroradiologists that can help you combat the pain that comes with the disease. They may also prescribe some pain meds like acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to help reduce the pain and make you a lot more comfortable.
- It’s advisable that you try to rest when the symptoms escalate, as this may make you calm and your back/neck less painful.
- For stiffness or soreness, you can treat it with heat, ice, or gentle stretching.
Certain lifestyle changes can also help reduce the pain associated with some of the spondylosis symptoms. These simple changes include:
- Weight loss
- Avoidance of painful behaviors
- Workplace modifications in terms of sitting and standing.
A healthy diet with vitamins like calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D plays a major role in strengthening bone health and can help alleviate symptoms of spondylosis. So, be sure to include foods like fish, vegetables, and fruits in your diet, as these could help.
Surgical Treatment for Spondylosis
Your doctor will only recommend surgery for you if you’re still experiencing severe and persistent pain after trying the options we’ve listed above.
The type of surgery will depend on the problem and its location. Using some of the methods for diagnosis above, your doctor can easily determine where the problem is and the type of surgery you need.
Three main types are:
- Spinal decompression surgery: An operation of this type helps to relieve the compression on nerves in the lower back (lumbar spine). It helps to relieve symptoms such as persistent pain and numbness in the legs resulting from pressure on the nerves in the spine.
- Stabilization (fusion) surgery: In spinal stabilization surgery, the surgeon inserts screws and plates in your spine to stabilize it after decompression and facilitate fusion. This procedure makes it possible to remove bone fragments and realign the vertebrae.
- Artificial disc replacement (intervertebral disc arthroplasty): Arthroplasty is a procedure in which the surgeon replaces your damaged spinal discs with artificial ones. The best candidates for this type of surgery are younger patients. Older patients with significant arthritis, bone spurs, and limited mobility at the disc level are generally not good candidates for arthroplasty.
Taking Control of Your Health With Craft Body Scan
Now you understand that people are more likely to develop spondylosis as they age. Also, people react differently to this disease as some cases present no symptoms while some show mild symptoms. In some other cases, the symptoms may be very severe, and you can treat them surgically or non-surgically.
At Craft Body Scan, we strive to help you make informed decisions to restore your health, especially in terms of prevention, because we understand that early detection can save your life and help you manage your condition better.
Do you feel any pain in your spine? Are you interested in getting a full-body scan? Or do you just want to stay on top of your health? Click the link below to schedule an appointment.