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Spondylosis is an umbrella term for various types of age-related degeneration of the spine.
The bones of the spine are referred to as the vertebrae. Between every pair of vertebrae, there are 3 joints. There’s a joint in the front of the spine that’s referred to as an intervertebral disc. There are 2 joints within the back of the spine, which are referred to as facet joints. These joints are made of cartilage and cushion the bones. Ligaments are around the spinal column and connect the vertebrae together. These help to support the joints and bones.
As people age, their bones, discs, cartilage, and ligaments change. Bone spurs (abnormal overgrowth of bones) might develop, discs might dry and crack, cartilage might wear out, and ligaments might thicken. These age-related degenerative changes are all types of spondylosis.
Spondylosis doesn’t always cause symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they usually include neck or back pain or stiffness.
Spondylosis can cause spinal stenosis, which may be a narrowing of the spinal canal. As a result, the spinal cord and/or nerve roots can become compressed (pinched). For instance, the cervical spinal cord may be affected by compression from spondylosis. This is often referred to as cervical spondylotic myelopathy. Symptoms of cervical spondylotic myelopathy include:
- Tingling and numbness within the arms, hands, legs and/or feet
- Weakness in the muscles of the arms, shoulders, legs, feet and/or hands
- Coordination issues
- Causes and Risk Factors
- Spondylosis is caused by wear and tear on the parts of the spine. the major risk factor for developing spondylosis is age. In fact, by age sixty most people will show signs of spondylosis on X-ray.
Tests and diagnosis
If a patient presents with symptoms related to spondylosis, the doctor might order an X-ray to assist identify any changes within the bones of the spine.
The doctor may additionally order the following diagnostic procedures:
- Magnetic resonance (MR) scan- provides a close image of the spinal cord and encompassing nerves. This procedure will help determine if a nerve is being compressed.
- Computed tomography (CT) scan- provides a lot of detailed pictures of the bones
If there’s a concern that spondylosis has begun to compress nerve tissue within the spine, the doctor might order a test to gauge whether or not the nerve signals are traveling properly to the muscles.
Typically, non-operative measures are effective in treating the symptoms related to spondylosis. Non-operative measures embody pain medications and physical therapy.
However, if spondylosis has resulted in compression of the spinal cord or nerve roots, surgery could also be necessary to alleviate the pressure.
- Discectomy to get rid of a herniated disk
- Laminectomy to remove bone spurs or remove a part of the vertebra referred to as the lamina
- Laminoplasty to open the space for nerve tissue by changing the position of the lamina
- Spinal fusion fusing a section of the spine using a transplanted bone with or without instruments (ex: rods and screws)
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