Spondylosis

Chiropractic and Physiotherapy Treatment for Spondylosis

Have you heard of the term ‘spondylosis’ before? If you’ve been in the doctor’s office for an X-ray because of back pain, this may or may not be a word that was used to describe what’s happening in your spine on a structural level. If you’ve never heard of it before but are wondering if this is something that you may have, or if you’ve been told you have spondylosis but aren’t sure what it actually is, read on to find out.

What Is Spondylosis?

The word ‘Spondylosis’ is interchangeable with the terms ‘lumbar/cervical osteoarthritis’, ‘disc degeneration’, or ‘degenerative disk disease’. The long definition: Spondylosis is the mechanical response of adjacent vertebral bone to disc degeneration, giving radiological signs of  joint space narrowing, osteophytosis, subchondral sclerosis, and cyst formation.

In short? Spondylosis is basically the degeneration of the spine – the spinal equivalent of osteoarthritis. When an X-ray is taken, some visible changes will be seen: The joint spaces are narrowed, bone spurs are present, thickening of bone edges, and harmless fluid-filled holes may develop inside of bones.

Is spondylosis also ‘spondylitis’? Not exactly. Spondylitis means inflammation in your spinal bones (vertebra). This inflammation often results in pain with difficulty moving. Spondylosis, or degeneration, is frequently asymptomatic. So while a person may have spondylosis, it may only be until spondylitis occurs when the bone spurs and joint narrowing start to impinge on the surrounding nerves that it is diagnosed.

What Are The Common Types of Spondylosis?

  • Cervical Spondylosis

Cervical spondylosis means the degeneration of the cervical vertebra, which are the first 7 spinal bones of the neck. Cervical spondylosis most often affects the levels of C5/C6 and C6/C7. What can cause cervical spondylosis is poor posture where the head pokes forward too much (‘anterior head carriage’ or ‘forward head posture’) which is unfortunately often seen in many office workers and those who need to work with computers daily.

  • Thoracic Spondylosis

Thoracic spondylosis refers to the 12 vertebrae right after the cervical vertebrae. Degeneration here is not as common as other areas of the spine, because they are not put under as much load as the other spine regions. This forms the midback and has the support of the shoulder blades and rib cage during daily activities.

  • Lumbar Spondylosis

Lumbar spondylosis is very common, and usually can be found in those experiencing low back pain who have a history of loading their lower back too much (e.g. sitting for very long periods of time with inactivity, or excessively carrying heavy loads and bending up and down).

  • Lumbosacral Spondylosis

Lumbosacral means the spinal joints between the lower back (lumbar region) and the sacrum (the part which forms the tailbone and joins to your hips). This can also be seen in those who have lumbar spondylosis. When a person has symptomatic lumbosacral spondylosis, they may also have symptoms not just in the lower back but also around the hip and buttock regions.

What Are The Symptoms of Spondylosis?

Some very common symptoms of spondylosis are:

  • Stiffness

Stiffness can often occur along with clicking or cracking sounds when you try to move the affected joint – bending, twisting, or just moving around in general. Waking up in the morning can feel like you need to oil your joints because of the stiffness that takes some time to get better! Movement often helps to relieve the stiffness.

  • Paresthesias

Paresthesias means any kind of sensations that may appear other than pain. This includes numbness, tingling, or electricity-like feelings going down the neck and arms (for cervical spondylosis), or down the hips and legs (for multilevel lumbar spondylosis). This also usually means there is some nerve involvement causing these sensations.

  • Limited Motion

You might find that where things were easy to do before (like bending down to pick something up) suddenly becomes much more difficult to do, or takes a longer time. Limited motion can be a classic symptom of spondylosis, because of the joint stiffness that happens due to the joint

  • Pain

While not all spondylosis sufferers experience pain, a sudden movement or activity that the spine is not ready for can really trigger a flare of pain. Due to the narrowed joint spaces and potential for nerve endings to become sensitised when there is degeneration of the spine, a painful flare can last for days or weeks and require immediate attention.

What’s The Difference Between Spondylosis vs Stenosis?


Spondylosis describes degenerative (arthritic) changes within the cervical or lumbar spine. This may or may not be accompanied by the compression of nerves or the spinal cord surrounding the spine.

Spinal stenosis means narrowing or compression of the spinal nerves in the spine due to spinal degeneration (wear and tear/arthritis).

Hence, not all spondylosis presents with stenosis. But they can appear concurrently at the same time.

What Are The Risks of Leaving Spondylosis Untreated?

There are some short-term and long-term risks of leaving spondylosis untreated.

For the short-term:

  • Pain can affect your activities of daily living
  • Sleep is affected because of the pain
  • Morning stiffness is prominent and it becomes difficult to have a smooth morning routine, because the spine will take time to ‘warm up’

In the long-term

  • Pain may become chronic, and prolonged pain can cause muscle weakness which further affects function
  • As stiffness and poor mobility continues, there may be an increased chance of developing further bone spurs because the stiff joints may rub against each other more
  • When weakness and poor mobility becomes seriously affected, it will take a longer period of rehabilitation to get back to where you want to be!
  • Those who have spondylosis that is too severe where it affects the nerves and spinal cord, they may even require surgery to relieve symptoms that could have been mitigated if addressed early on.

While spondylosis is not a life-threatening condition, it can severely affect your quality of life. Addressing your spondylosis early can help to prevent surgery down the line. 

Does Treating Spondylosis Require Surgery?

Surgery is only usually done in severe cases – this means extreme pain and inability to move, and the nerve compression has happened to the extent that there are serious symptoms such as bladder or bowel dysfunction, and numbness around the genital region (saddle anaesthesia). Otherwise, spondylosis treatment and pain relief can often be effectively done through conservative means such as chiropractic and physiotherapy care.

For more FAQ’s on Back Pain and Surgery, read more here: The Top 10 Questions Clients Ask About Back Pain Including Avoiding Surgery

What Are Some Complementary Treatments for Spondylosis?

  • Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic care focuses on adjustment of your spine, which reduces the restrictions and stiffness in the spine. This allows greater blood flow and circulation to the degenerative or arthritic spine, allowing for better movement and healing. To read more about chiropractic care and what happens in our clinic, check out this page: Chiropractic Treatment & Services in KL | Bone Joint Adjustment Specialist

  • Physiotherapy Care 

Rehabilitation involves the assessment of faulty movement patterns and imbalances that contribute to further wear and tear of the spine. Weakness in muscles that support the back (such as your core, hip, or even upper body) causes overactivity of the muscles near the spine. By addressing your muscles and movements, this helps to spread out loads across your spine, giving you long-term results.

  • Decompression

Decompression helps to unload the spine and allow further healing in spondylosis cases which are severe enough to cause pain that affects a person’s quality of life. Decompression is not traction, and we recommend this to those suffering from extreme back pain.

How To Prevent Spondylosis?

Early prevention is the best cure. 

  • Get your annual spinal check, especially if you spend most of your days sitting in front of the computer or standing long hours at work.
  • The right age to start caring about taking care of your spine is now. With the increase in sitting hours at school or at work, we see many people from the ages of 7 years old to 80 years old who are looking for help with their spinal health.
  • Keep moving throughout the day – take a few minutes to stand up and walk around every 1-2 hours to prevent stiffness from setting in.
  • If you have a job requiring you to walk, stand, or lift heavy things daily, all the more important to get a spinal check up. Daily loads on your spine can lead to spondylosis over time, making it important to assess your movement patterns to ensure you are moving right.

Treat Spondylosis Near You in Kuala Lumpur

We have been treating back cases and spondylosis since 2014, and have seen an increase in cases coming through our doors throughout the years. Having seen results with a combination of chiropractic, physiotherapy, and decompression care, this brings us to realise that recovery is very much an individual process. If you are suffering from spondylosis and require a consultation of what we can do for you, book online here for an initial consultation today.

 

References:

Cervical Spondylosis (Arthritis of the Neck) – OrthoInfo – AAOS. OrthoInfo. https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases–conditions/cervical-spondylosis-arthritis-of-the-neck/

Middleton, K., Fish, D.E. Lumbar spondylosis: clinical presentation and treatment approaches. Curr Rev Musculoskelet Med 2, 94–104 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12178-009-9051-x

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