What is Spondylosis? Causes, Symptoms andd Treatment

spondylosis definition

Spondylosis is a term that refers to stiffness or fixation of the bones in the spine, which happens because of a disease.

Spondylosis encompasses any form of degenerative conditions affecting the vertebral column; which is why we find different kinds of spondylosis.

You can have spondylosis in your neck, lower back or middle back. It is common for people to use the term Spondylosis to refer to the osteoarthritis of the spine, in spite of how broad this concept is.

Cervical spondylosis is a general term related to the wear and tear that affects the discs of the spine in the neck. As the discs dehydrate and shrink, bone spurs and other signs of osteoarthritis develop.

Cervical spondylosis is very common and worsens with age. It also appears to have an implicit genetic component because some families have more of these changes over time, while other families will develop less.

More than 90 percent of people over the age of 65 have evidence of cervical spondylosis and osteoarthritis. Most of these people do not experience symptoms of these problems.

Symptoms of spondylosis

People can experience the symptoms of spondylosis every day; sometimes these signs can come and go. The symptoms that you should be aware of are:

  • Back and neck pain that can be mild or severe
  • Foot drop that can be caused by weakness in the legs
  • Headaches
  • Herniated disc
  • Muscle spasms
  • Neck pain and stiffness
  • Nerve problems that can cause pain, numbness, or tingle in the arms, shoulders or even the legs
  • Sciatica

It is best to see your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms of spondylosis.

In most cases, cervical spondylosis does not cause symptoms. When symptoms occur, they usually only affect the neck, causing pain and stiffness.

Sometimes cervical spondylosis results in a narrowing of the space needed by the spinal cord and nerve roots that originate in the spinal cord and pass through the spine for the rest of your body.

If the nerve roots or spinal cord are tight, you may experience:

  • Tingling, numbness, and weakness in the arms, hands, legs, or feet
  • Lack of coordination and difficulty walking
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control

Seek medical attention if you notice any of these signs


As we age, the bones and cartilage that form the spine and neck gradually develop wear. These changes may include:

Dehydrated discs: The discs act as buffers between the vertebrae of the spine.

At age 40, the spinal discs of many people begin desiccation and contraction, allowing more bone to bone contact between the vertebrae.

Hernia of the discs; age also affects the exterior of the discs of the spine. Cracks frequently appear, leading to bulging discs or herniated discs – which can sometimes strike the spinal cord and nerve roots.

Bone spurs. Disc degeneration often results in the spine producing additional amounts of bone, sometimes called bony spurs, in a wrong effort to prop up the strength of the spine.

These bony spurs can sometimes pinch the spinal cord and nerve roots.

Rigid ligaments. Ligaments are woven strings that connect bones to each other. Increased age can cause the spinal ligaments to harden and calcify, making your neck a lot less flexible.

Treatment of spondylosis

Spondylosis isn’t curable, but it can be treatable so that you can go on with your everyday life with the pain under control. Different kinds of medication can assist with the pain and discomfort.

There is the short-course pain medication such as:

  • Celecoxib.
  • Hydrocodone.
  • Ibuprofen.
  • Oxycodone.

Then, there are muscle relaxers that you can also use instead of the pain-relieving medicines. These medications can be:

  • Carisoprodol.
  • Methocarbamol.
  • Cyclobenzaprine.

Your doctor can also prescribe nerve medication. These medications can be:

  • Duloxetine.
  • Gabapentin.
  • Pregabalin.

Surgery can also serve as an option if you have uncontrolled pain, loss of movement or even loss of bowel or bladder control.

To relieve some of the pain of spondylosis, you can also try one of these Complementary treatments:

  • Acupuncture.
  • Biofeedback.
  • Massage therapy, or
  • Even yoga.

This won’t cure your disease, but it will make the pain more bearable and can improve your quality of life.

Spondylosis is a disease that can cause a lot of pain in the neck, lower back or even the middle back. There are a few medications that you can be taken to improve your condition, but there is no definitive cure for this disease.

Risk factors

Risk factors for cervical spondylosis include:

  • Age: Cervical spondylosis is a regular part of aging. Spine discs tend to dehydrate and reduce size over the years.
  • Occupation: Specific jobs can put extra strain on your neck. The causes of such pressure can include repetitive neck movements, awkward position or a lot of work above.
  • Neck injuries: Anterior neck lesions appear to increase the risk of cervical spondylosis.
  • Genetic factors: Some families have more of these changes over time, while other families will develop less.


During the examination, your doctor will check the range of motion of the neck.

To see if there is pressure on the spinal nerves or spinal cord, the doctor will test your reflexes and check the strength of your muscles.

You may want to watch yourself walk to see if spinal compression is affecting your gait.

Imaging tests

A variety of imaging tests can provide information to guide diagnosis and treatment. Examples include:

X-ray of the neck. An x-ray may show abnormalities, such as bone spurs, which indicate cervical spondylosis. Doctors mainly seek it as a screening test to look for unusual and severe conditions affecting the neck and causing pain and stiffness – such as tumors, infections or fractures.

Computed Tomography (CT). This test is performed on x-rays from many different directions and then combines them in a cross-sectional view of structures in the neck.

It can provide many more specific details than a simple x-ray, especially of the bones.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). MRI uses a magnetic field and radio waves and can produce detailed, transverse images of bones and soft tissues. This can help identify areas where nerves can get pinched.

Myelogram. This test consists of imaging that uses X-rays or CT scans after injecting a fluid into the spinal canal. The contrast medium makes the areas of the spine more visible.

Nerve Function Tests

In some cases, it may be useful to determine if the nerve signals travel correctly to the muscles. Nerve function tests include:

Electromyography (EMG). This test measures the electrical activity of nerves that transmit messages to muscles when muscles contract and when they are at rest.

The purpose of an EMG is to assess the health of the muscles and nerves that control them.

Nerve conduction study. For this test, electrodes are placed on your skin above the nerve to be studied.

A small discharge is passed through the nerve to measure the strength and speed of nerve signals.