Spondylosis - Symptoms, Risk factors and Treatment

Spondylosis is a condition that develops with increasing age due to wear and tear of the spine. In this condition, the intervertebral discs and joints degenerate, and bone spurs form on them.


What causes spondylosis?


Spondylosis occurs due to age-related wear and tear of the spine. The spine comprises bones called vertebrae, and between these vertebrae are intervertebral discs- structures that act as a cushion and shock absorbers. These intervertebral discs prevent the vertebrae from rubbing against each other.


With increasing age, the intervertebral discs start to degenerate, losing their shock absorbing property, which results in increased pressure on the vertebrae and the vertebral joints.


In an attempt to strengthen the joints and to cope with increased pressure, the body starts to form new bones- resulting in bony spur formation.


The neck and the back are commonly affected areas by spondylosis because they bear a lot of weight. The symptoms of spondylosis are also shown commonly in these areas.


Risk factors for spondylosis


Different factors increase the risk of spondylosis, such as:


  • Having a family history of spondylosis

  • Being overweight

  • History of trauma to the spine such as car accidents or fall

  • Sedentary lifestyle

  • Lifting heavyweights


Symptoms of spondylosis


Spondylosis may not show any symptoms in some people. However, in some people, the bony spurs can put pressure on the nerves passing through that area, making the condition symptomatic. Common signs and symptoms of spondylosis can include:


  • Back Pain

  • Back stiffness

  • Neck pain

  • Neck stiffness

  • Loss of movement in the spine 

  • Trouble walking

  • Loss of chest expansion

  • Trouble breathing deeply 

  • Urinary incontinence

  • Fecal incontinence

  • Weakness in the arms and legs

  • Numbness in the arms and legs


Complications


The complications of spondylosis include:


Spinal stenosis: This means the narrowing of the canal through which the spinal nerves pass. The narrowing can put pressure on the nerves resulting in weakness and numbness of the affected part.


Scoliosis: This refers to the curving of the spine sideways. Scoliosis can make the symptoms of spondylosis even worse.


Fractures: The vertebrae in spondylosis become weak and can get fractured. Fractured vertebrae can injure and compress the spinal cord causing numbness, loss of sensation, or paralysis in a part of the body.


Diagnosis of spondylosis:


To diagnose spondylosis, your doctor may ask for detailed history about the symptoms and history and do a physical exam. Other than that, your doctor may suggest the following tests:


  • X-ray

  • CT scan

  • MRI

  • Electromyography (EMG)

  • Nerve conduction study

  • Myelography


Treatment of spondylosis:


The treatment of spondylosis may involve:


Pain medications: Pain medications, mostly NSAIDS (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), are given, such as ibuprofen, naproxen, etc. 


Muscle relaxants: These drugs help loosen up stiff muscles and thereby reduce pain.


Corticosteroids: These drugs reduce inflammation.


Other than medications, surgery and physical therapy may be recommended to treat spondylosis.



Conclusion


Spondylosis is a condition that can occur due to age-related wear and tear of the spine. The condition can be bothersome and painful, but with proper medications and exercise, this condition can be managed, with improved quality of life. 


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