Spondylosis is a nonspecific term that refers to any degenerative lesion of the spine. Spondylosis typically refers to degenerative or pathological conditions of the spine that involves the narrowing of the spaces between the surfaces of adjacent vertebral bones. In the human vertebral spine, the structures that separate the vertebral bones include the intervertebral discs and the facet joints. The discs separate the vertebral bodies, which are the weight-bearing portions of the spinal bones. The facet joints include smooth cartilage that separate the flat facets of the spinal bones. The result of the loss of these joint spaces may involve a rubbing together of the spinal bones, which may cause inflammation (osteoarthritis) and instability to the spine.
Degenerative changes that occur to the spine may be described specifically in terms of the type of structures involved (e.g. herniated discs, osteophyte) or they may be classified according to the section of the spine involved. Spondylosis may describe a degenerative condition in the neck (cervical spondylosis) or it may describe degeneration in the lower back (lumbar spondylosis). Because there is no universally agreed upon definition of this term, many doctors use it differently. Doctors may use the term spondylosis in one or more of the following ways:
- To refer to a diagnostically confirmed degenerative disc condition, such as degenerative disc disease
- To describe osteoarthritis in the lumbar or cervical spine (e.g. lumbar osteoarthritis or cervical osteoarthritis)
- As an "umbrella" term to describe a patient with back pain that also presents with evidence of spine degeneration, as it presents medical images or other tests, such as X-Ray,
MRI, CT, etc.
- Where a person has back pain and degeneration of the spine, but no specific pain generator has yet been identified. The pain generator is the source of pain in someone. The pain generator is an important concept to understand, especially with conditions that involve referred pain.
This term may be used before or after the patient has received a physical examination and gone through one or more rounds of diagnostic tests. The two most popular tests doctors order to look at the health of the spine and its joints are the X-Ray and MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). If tests reveal that the facet joints are degenerated, the person may be more specifically diagnosed with facet syndrome. If tests reveal healthy facet joints but a significantly reduced disc space between the vertebral bones, the person may be more specifically diagnosed with degenerative disc disease.
Causes of Spondylosis: Lumbar spondylosis and cervical spondylosis may be caused by a lifetime of improper body movements and posture, which puts added strain on the muscles, ligaments, and soft tissues of the spine, the condition may also be an inevitable result of the natural aging process. The two most common causes of lumbar spondylosis are:
- Wear and tear, which may also describe age related degeneration
- Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI). Repetitive strain injury may refer to prolonged time periods of sitting or standing in the same position while using ill posture, such as on long car rides while commuting to work, or a slouched position while sitting at the computer. Repetitive strain injury may also include years of work around the house or work activities that are also done while using bad posture. Repetitive strain injury at work is one of the leading causes of worker comp cases, which may lead to days or weeks of lost work productivity for companies and wages for employees.