Spondylosis is a type of arthritis spurred by a slow march of wear and tear happening to our spine, whether we feel it or see it. We tend to think of arthritis as something you get in your hands and knees, but the spine, and all of its bones and joints, can fall victim to its grip as well.
Spondylosis generally develops in people over 40, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t affect younger people, too.
Today, we will talk about a detailed overview of spondylosis, its types, causes, symptoms, and the remedies to be taken as precautionary measure.
The human body is supported by the vertebral column which provides both mobility and stability so that person can remain upright all the day. In normal anatomical position, the spine has a slight “S” shaped curve when looked at from the side.
This curvature allows even distribution of weight. Ideally, the joints in the spine are lined up in such a way that the back can twist and bend with little friction between the vertebrae.
However, today the number of people complaining of Spinal Osteoarthritis, more commonly known as Spondylosis is rising rapidly.
Spondylosis is a degenerative disorder that may cause loss of normal spine structure and function. In this, the commonly involved parts are the disc, joints, and ligaments of the spine.
The discs lose their cushioning effect between the spinal bones, the ligaments become weak and the bones develop bony growths or spurs. These accumulated changes caused by degeneration can gradually compress one or more of the nerve root which can be very painful in some cases.
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The traditional spondylosis classification system recognizes 5 types of conditions in the system (1). They are;
The inflammation in spine or pelvis can lead to ankylosis — new bone formation in the spine — causing sections of the spine to fuse in a fixed, immobile position. It can affect shoulders, hips, ribs, heels, and other joints.
The inflammation of the intestine, which includes the bowel, is a predominant feature of this type.
It causes pain and swelling in the small joints of the hands, feet, toe, or fingers. Most people have psoriasis skin rash. A portion of people also has pain and stiffness in the spine.
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An infection in the intestine or urinary tract usually occurs before inflammation in the joints. It can cause inflammation and pain in the joints, skin, eyes, bladder, genitals, and mucus membranes.
Symptoms begin in childhood. The arthritis typically involves joints in the lower extremities in an asymmetric fashion.
In new classification system, the spondylosis can be bifurcated into 2 main categories;
This type of spondylosis causes inflammation in the spine and/or pelvis that typically brings on inflammatory back pain. It also includes people with and without characteristic damage or fusing of the joints linking the lowest part of the spine to the pelvis.
It commonly causes inflammation in joints and/or tendons outside the spine or sacroiliac joints. Commonly involved sites include joints in the hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders, knees, ankles, and feet.
What causes spondylosis?
Bones in a joint need to glide smoothly together. Articular cartilage, which is cartilage that wraps the ends of bones in a joint, allows that smooth gliding and helps prevent painful and damaging bone-on-bone contact.
Osteoarthritis is the gradual breakdown of this cartilage. It’s also known as wear-and-tear arthritis, because it just sort of happens naturally over a lifetime of joint movement.
Intervertebral discs serve as the cushion between the bone and function as a major shock absorber by retaining water (2).
As we age, the discs begin to dry out and, as a result, can lose their shock-absorbing capability, transmitting more loads to the vertebrae, sometimes resulting in bone spur formation. Our bodies respond to stress by forming bone in an attempt to stabilize the segment.
Here we have mentioned some causing factors to the condition;
- Excessive intake of food items which are too astringent, bitter and pungent in taste and extremely dry and light in nature.
- Eating less food, fasting for a prolonged time
- Other factors like excessive exercise
- Too much of physical activity
- Withholding of natural urges
- Aging is the predominant cause, but today we can see increased incidences of this condition even at a young age, probably due to lifestyle, and the associated mental and physical stress and strain.
The degenerative process may affect the Cervical (neck, Thoracic (Mid Back), or Lumbar (Low back) regions of the spine.
The most commonly seen are the Cervical and Lumbar type of spondylosis, the reason being the cervical anatomy and its wide range of activities which make it more susceptible to disorders associated with degenerative changes.
Lumbar spondylosis is commonly seen in women more than in men. It affects the lumbar spine in a population over forty years of age. The lumbar spine carries most of the body weight.
The repetitive movements like lifting and bending(e.g. Manual labor work) may increase the pain.
Common symptoms of Spondylosis
Spondylosis is common, but it is not usually serious. Many who have it experience no pain, though it can be painful for some. Most patients with spinal osteoarthritis will not need surgery.
However, it is a degenerative condition that may worsen any region of the spine, including:
- Cervical — neck
- Thoracic — upper, mid-back
- Lumbar — low back
- Lumbosacral — low back/sacrum
And, the symptoms may include;
- Neck pain
- Pain spreading from the neck down the arms
- Lower back pain
- Pain spreading from the lower back down the legs
- Stiffness – neck, lumbar region
- Muscle weakness
- Arm weakness
- Movement difficulty
- Muscle spasms around the spine
- Degenerative changes
- Tingling sensations
Effects of spondylosis
If ignored, spondylosis may lead to disabling, tingling pain, limited motion, and partial paralysis in affected areas of the body.
Direct pressure on the spinal cord (typically in the cervical spine) may result in weakness below neck region, gait dysfunction, loss of balance. And loss of bowel and/or bladder control.
Advice for Spondylosis patients
While generally lacking robust clinical studies to support the efficacy of surgeries and medication, many complementary and alternative treatments have been used effectively to relieve pain related to spondylosis and degenerative conditions of the spine.
Osteoarthritis, spondylosis, and softening happen to us all as we age. Yet, being active and living a healthy lifestyle can help slow the onset of them or make them less severe.
Rice, Wheat, Moong (Green gram), Kulatha (Horse gram), Til (Sesame), Goghurt (Cows ghee), Parwar, Louki (White gourd), Anar (Pomegranate), Garlic, milk, etc.
Diet to avoid
Java ( Barley), Chana (Gram), Mutter (Green pees), Karela (Bitter Gourd), Supari (Betal Nut), Jamun, dried or frozen meat, stale food, pungent food, chilled water.
Gentle message with medicated oil, fomentation, etc.
Lifestyle to avoid
Stress, keeping late nights, curbing of natural urges, excessive sexual activities, exposure to dry and cold air.
Care to be taken
- Appropriate rest necessary, avoid prolonged rest.
- Always maintain a good posture
- Weight to be kept under control
- Avoid lifting heavy objects, repeated bending, and twisting
- Fomentation with hot pads or hot water bag
- Avoid extremely soft beds. Use an appropriate pillow as well as a bed to balance the posture during sleep.
- Indulge in moderate exercise or yoga under supervision. Avoid any jerks during exercise or any physical activities.
- Avoid exercise, if the pain increases with it. Normal activities to be increased gradually.
Useful Yoga poses
Surgery is not commonly recommended for cervical spondylosis and neck pain unless your doctor determines that:
- A spinal nerve is being pinched by a herniated disk or bone (cervical radiculopathy), or
- Your spinal cord is being compressed (cervical spondylotic myelopathy)
Patients who have progressive neurologic symptoms, such as arm weakness, numbness, or falling, are more likely to be helped by surgery.