What is spondylosis? We have heard now and then that people are getting this condition and suffering a lot. Actually spondylosis is a medical term for some form of degeneration of the vertebra, or one of the spinal bones. There are cushioning discs between the vertebrae and sometimes these can get affected too.
Finally, the whole of the spine can get affected in spondylosis. So, on the whole we can conclude that degeneration of part or whole of the spine can be called spondylosis. However, one should not confuse between spondylosis and spondylitis. While spondylosis is the degeneration of the vertebrae and the spine, spondylitis is a form of arthritis where the spine and sacroiliac joints (the point where the spine meets the hip bones) suffer from inflammation.
Spondylosis is generally seen in elderly people and sets in after the age of 50. But there is no such age bar for spondylitis and people of any age can get it. Of the two, spondylitis is rarer in occurrence.
Various Types of Spondylosis
Cervical region is the neck region of the body. Cervical spondylosis is almost a general term used by the physicians for all the age related degeneration of the soft tissues and discs of the cervical region of the spine. The discs either thin out or develop cracks due to constant wear and tear. This is very common in people over about 50 years of age and can lead to further development of various degenerative conditions of the spine.
When you hear about C5-C6 spondylosis, it actually means one form of cervical spondylosis where the fifth and sixth vertebrae of the spine get affected. The person will feel neck pain as a result.
Lumbar region is the lower back region of the spine and lumbar spondylosis is the disorder of this region as a result of the degeneration of the vertebrae of this area. This is also quite common as the lumbar region suffers most during the life of a person. It is the main load bearing point of the body as well as the portion which experiences maximum twisting and bending. So it is quite natural that this portion will get affected mostly in case of spondylosis.
A form of lumbar spondylosis is spondylosis of the L5 vertebra or at the L5 vertebra. This is degeneration that takes place at the point where the lumbar spine or the back spine joins the tail bone. This condition may not be serious in itself but it gives rise to various other conditions that can be painful.
This is defined as the condition when the area where the lumbar spine meets the sacral spine faces degeneration and spondylosis occurs. The exact point is the meeting point of the last vertebra in the lumbar region and the first vertebra of the sacral region. The degeneration that takes place is mainly seen in the cartilaginous structure present in the region. This happens because this region is responsible for supporting the maximum amount of weight of the body.
This condition can be seen in the later stages of life and in people suffering from spondylosis for quite some time. Generally spondylosis is determined by the pair of vertebrae that get affected. But it is not possible to say so in cases where many vertebrae get affected or even in some case the degeneration takes place over several regions of the spine.
That means a person may suffer from both spondylosis in the cervical and lumbar region at the same time. Such cases are categorized into multilevel spondylosis and are usually of the severe type. Once spondylosis was called degenerative spondylosis, but it has been established that degeneration is the main cause and the other symptoms related to spondylosis are all result of such degeneration. Nowadays, the term ‘degenerative spondylosis’ in no more used.
This is also related to the intensity and refers to the condition where spondylosis has moved into a severe state. In this condition the patient generally suffers from degeneration of several areas of the spine as well as compression of nerves between the vertebrae. So at the same time the person may develop spondylosis of the cervical and thoracic region along with lumbar region.
Treatment of Spondylosis
Any treatment of spondylosis generally aims at alleviation of the symptoms including reducing stiffness of the joints and removing the compression of any nerves lying between the vertebrae.
Conservative treatment of spondylosis first aims to alleviate the symptoms through non-surgical methods. Such treatment will include NSAIDs or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs; pain relief through narcotic medications when simple analgesics may not be enough; steroid injections in advanced cases; cryotherapy and thermal therapy; modification of posture and may also include various lifestyle changes like weight loss in case of obese persons, regulating or stopping the use of alcohol and smoking, etc.
Physical therapy is included in the conservative treatment of spondylosis and it can be very effective and can actually slow down the degenerative process if it is practiced with care and under proper supervision of a trained physical therapist.
This is generally approached when the conservative treatment fails to provide adequate relief or when the condition is beyond such treatment. Though it is often termed an elective method meaning that the patient is at a liberty to choose whether to go for or not to go for such surgery, it becomes a necessity when the patient fails to get on with his or her normal life due to spondylosis.
In such cases surgery may become a possible method of providing relief. Generally the person undergoes surgery for releasing the nerves that get compressed between vertebrae and improvement of the disc spaces in the spine. Nowadays such surgery can be done by the least invasive methods as well as Endoscopy.
Sometimes people go for alternative treatments for spondylosis like yoga, acupuncture and chiropractic therapy for getting relief.