Spondylosis - What is it, and Should I Be Worried?
While many find they have spondylosis of the spine, what does it mean, and can I still exercise?
Spondylosis has many associated terms such as degeneration, osteoarthritis, and myelopathy. We are talking about the same problem.
Many people go to their GP or their Chiropractor and take an X-Ray or more advanced imaging like a CT or MRI and discover they have spondylosis! It’s often presented as a “normal” process of aging, and you can’t do anything about it… but that’s far from the truth.
Is Spondylosis Common or Normal?
A normal healthy spine that has good biomechanics, is not highly stressed, and doesn’t have a history of any big injuries and accidents should have minimal to no spondylosis when you age in your 30s-40s.
What we find in our Align Chiropractic clinic is that most people are not aligned, their poor daily habits have been building negative stress on their joints, discs, muscles, and nerves, and this has turned into the common diagnosis that we now see.
To repeat, spondylosis and degeneration are not normal. It is a mal-adaptation of the spine to stresses and forces it can not handle.
Just like heart disease, this process does not directly cause pain at first, although we typically only “feel” the problem only once it's progressed far. Spondylosis symptoms of the lumbar spine and cervical spine can be very similar.
Common symptoms in the beginning are of the functional nature:
stiffness near the joint or vertebrae
Loss of normal range of motion (difficult turning and bending)
Aches and pains that come and go
Morning pain and stiffness specifically in the first 30 minutes upon waking
In severe cases, they can be:
Pain that travels down the arms or legs
Numbness, tingling, and sharp stabbing pain that can be severe to disabling
Pain that gets worse with sitting and movement
Weakness in muscles of the arms and legs
So let’s break down the first part…
One hallmark of spondylosis is the vertebral endplate bone spurs. The body lays down extra calcium (bone) in areas that have too many biomechanical stress, notably near areas of the spine that have lost their integrity and movement.
Something important to remember.. bone spurs themselves do not usually cause pain!
Yes they do look scary, but most are not painful. The only time they can create pain is when they affect nearby structures such as exiting nerves and the spinal cord.
We sadly have many people come into our clinic looking like this (Figure A). They often present with very stiff necks, loss of mobility, and chronic muscle tension and that travels down to their shoulders and mid-back. Instead of 7 normal square shaped vertebrae (neck bones), this patient had multiple levels of bone spurs, worst at C5-C6.
Figure A: Even in moderate to high spondylosis cases like this male in his 40s, relief from stiffness and pain can still occur. On the left, he initially presented with a large Forward Head Posture (F.H.P.) of 35mm, and with 90 days of specific Corrective Chiropractic Care he had a reduction in his F.H.P. to 23mm, improved sitting posture and less rounded shoulders, and his pain and stiffness was decreased from 7/10 to 1/10.
Bone spurs are sadly here to stay, but surgery is usually not necessary for them. They are signs of bad biomechanics and poor function. As a Chiropractor, we are the best suited to improve the function of these “stuck joints” and regain flexibility, decrease pain and stiffness, and make sure to slow down further wear and tear.
When the disc becomes unevely compressed, like a car tire that has an uneven alignment, it wears un-evenly.
The discs are designed to absorb the shock of your daily activities, everything from sitting for long hours to walking up and down stairs, to an intensive HIIT workout. But if you give this problem a few years, the disc will become compressed and “worn out”.
Figure B: This patient has lost their low back lordosis (curvature) and reported sitting for multiple hours at work without taking breaks. The disc spacing between L5-S1 has clear signs of moderate-to-severe degeneration. The rest of his spine also shows signs of moderate disc degeneration.
What can I do?
The reason most Medical Doctors, Orthopaedic surgeons, and Chiropractors say this is difficult to treat is because its traditionally thought of as a one way direction. Once spondylosis has progressed, it continues to get worse over time.
The common treatments are usually focused on pain reduction and stabilising the area; these can include:
Heat and cold
Physical Therapy exercises
But what all of these are missing is treating the root cause of the problem. Most medical treatments are based on helping the surrounding area or limiting inflammation.
What we do at Aligned Chiropractic is treat and adjust the dysfunctional spondylitic joints safely and effectively to regain proper motion and function. The adjustment is specifically delivered only after a thorough and detailed analysis to insure optimal results. We often find that only certain segments of the spine have “worn out”, with others still showing great functional integrity. By focusing on the entire Spine, and very specifically with the degenerated vertebrae, we are able to restore health and help eliminate symptoms.
By pairing this correction with specialized stability exercises and easy-to-do homework, we are very successful at not just decreasing pain in patients with spondylosis, but also insuring their spine will stay and remain strong over time.
In order to heal the dysfunctional joint, you have to first focus and be effective with restoring proper joint mechanics.
For more information, or a free consult to see if your case is right for us, email us at