The term mild spondylosis is used to describe the early stages of spinal degeneration and could be the cause of your neck or back pain. Spondylosis isn’t a specific condition itself, but rather indicates the presence of degenerative conditions that can cause neck or back pain. These degenerative conditions occur naturally as an individual ages and may require treatment if they result in nerve compression or other issues that lead to discomfort. C5 to C6 spondylosis, for example, describes the presence of degenerative conditions at the fifth and sixth vertebrae in the cervical (upper) spine. Most cases of spondylosis are initially mild and can be managed with conservative, non-surgical treatment, but if degeneration is severe, surgery may be needed.
The aging process
Over the years, the regular wear and tear on the spine takes a toll and the spinal anatomy naturally begins to deteriorate. This wear and tear is part of the normal aging process and accounts for aches, pains and loss of flexibility in the spine. While keeping in good physical shape can help, age-related degeneration is largely unavoidable. Mild spondylosis isn’t a condition as much as it is a descriptive term used by physicians to describe natural degeneration in the spine.
However, mild spondylosis isn’t considered a comprehensive diagnosis because it doesn’t specify the source of an individual’s symptoms. Some examples of specific types of spinal degeneration include:
- Osteophytes — the development of bone spurs in the spinal column
- Spinal stenosis — the gradual narrowing of the spinal canal or a foramen in the spinal column
- Degenerative disc disease — the weakening, tearing or bulging of the discs between the vertebrae that normally cushion the spine
- Facet disease — a type of osteoarthritis caused by cartilage deterioration, pain and stiffness in the facet joints that connect adjacent vertebrae.
Causes of spondylosis
Spondylosis describes the gradual deterioration of the spine over time. The most common occurrence of spondylosis is found in the lumbar (lower back) portion of the spine. The lumbar spine is responsible for supporting and stabilizing most of the body’s weight. As the body increases in weight and has years of bending and twisting, the components of the lumbar spine, such as the vertebrae, discs and joints, slowly start to wear. This is spondylosis.
When the components of the spine begin to wear down, other spine conditions may occur. Common conditions associated with spondylosis include:
- Herniated disc
- Spinal stenosis
- Bulging disc
- Bone spurs
- Degenerative disc disease
In some cases, spondylosis is a result of another spine condition, such as arthritis of the spine, causing the vertebrae or joints of the spine to deteriorate. Your physician can accurately determine the cause of your spondylosis by reviewing your MRI or CT scan.
Symptoms of spondylosis
Most mild cases of spondylosis do not have any symptoms. In fact, most people over the age of 70 have spondylosis without any knowledge of it. Because the most common cause of spondylosis is the natural aging process, most people never experience a symptom besides minor and infrequent aches and pains.
However, more progressive cases of spondylosis may result in back stiffness and pain. Some patients may experience pain when bending or twisting, or radiating pain down the buttock and leg.
Treatment of mild spondylosis depends on the specific source of neck or back pain. Mild spondylosis can usually be treated with conservative options like physical therapy or pain medication. Consult with your physician to develop a personalized treatment plan. If your spondylosis conditions worsen, however, surgery may become an option.
If you experience severe spondylosis and are considering spine surgery, Laser Spine Institute is here to help. As the leader in minimally invasive spine surgery, our minimally invasive decompression and stabilization procedures are often the clinically appropriate first choice and provide many advantages versus open neck or back surgery. These benefits include smaller incisions, fewer risks and faster recoveries.