Spondylosis (Spine Arthritis)
What is Spondylosis?
Spondylosis (spine arthritis) is one of the most common causes of spine pain and stiffness once you are aged over fifty. Spondylosis is further categorised depending on the region of the spine that is present.
- Cervical Spondylosis (Neck Arthritis)
- Thoracic Spondylosis (Mid Back Arthritis)
- Lumbar Spondylosis (Low Back Arthritis)
Everyday “wear and tear” damages your spinal joints. In advanced stages, spinal arthritis can be painful and deteriorate into other conditions when the nerves become pinched (e.g. sciatica).
Unfortunately, there is no cure. But the good news is that there are numerous ways to make your life easier via the correct management of the condition.
Physiotherapy is a crucial part of making your life less painful, more functional and very enjoyable. It should also slow down the speed with which your spondylosis deteriorates.
Physiotherapy has been shown by research to reduce the pain and disability associated with spondylosis.
How is Spondylosis Diagnosed?
There are over 150 different forms of arthritis for which there are different treatments. The most common form of arthritis in the spine is spondylosis. Basically, it’s “wear and tear” arthritis. The more you repeatedly stress or traumatise your spinal joints, the more likely you will develop spondylosis.
An experienced spinal health practitioner will have an excellent idea of whether you have spondylosis when they examine you. X-rays are the simplest test to confirm spondylosis. MRI’s and CT scans will highlight more specific findings.
How Does Spondylosis Affect You?
As you age, most people develop some degree of spondylosis. Wear and tear of your spinal joints may occur due to ageing, injury, prolonged poor posture, overuse of joints, or excess weight.
Permanent bony changes occur and will exist even when there are no painful symptoms. The degree of suffering varies.
You may be symptom-free or suffer continuous disabling pain. The most common is mild or intermittent pain provoked by episodes of increased use or minor trauma.
Severe cases may require surgical treatment, but luckily most sufferers will respond very well to physiotherapy and exercise-based treatment.
What are the Symptoms of Spondylosis?
- Spinal joint pain or tenderness that intermittently returns
- Spinal stiffness, particularly early morning
- Spinal joint deformity; seen on X-ray
- Painful spinal joint movement.
For specific diagnostic advice, please consult your spine physiotherapist or doctor.
What is Physiotherapy Treatment for Spondylosis?
Everyone’s treatment for spondylosis will vary depending on your assessment. For more details on specific treatment modalities, please consult your physiotherapist or view the more detailed information below.
What Can You Do To Help?
- Respect your pain – rest when the pain becomes significant
- Avoid over-stressing joints with forceful or prolonged weight-bearing activities, e.g. lifting, jogging
- Avoid jarring or sudden movements
- Lose Weight – the less you weigh, the less your spine has to support
- Keep up General Exercise where pain allows, e.g. walking, swimming, cycling
- Perform Core Stability Exercises to best support your spine and reduce your pain
- Use a TENS machine to potentially assist pain relief in the comfort of your own home at any time of the day or night.
Why Do Exercises Help Spondylosis?
Exercises for people with spondylosis should always be individually prescribed. Your physiotherapist is an expert at the prescription of exercises to suit your condition.
As a general rule, remember if any exercise hurts, then DON’T DO IT!
Specific Exercises Help Spondylosis by:
- Maintaining or increasing joint movement
- Loosening and stretching tight muscles
- Improving joint lubrication and nutrition
- Restoring muscle strength, spinal height and control
- Improving circulation to improve your healing rate
- Improving core control, poor posture or joint position
- Maintaining your general fitness.
The correct exercises will help you to feel better and retain or improve the health of your muscles and joints. Regular exercises such as swimming, water exercise (hydrotherapy or aqua-aerobics), walking or cycling are recommended. Core exercises are essential!
The result is you’ll feel much better, and you’ll start to enjoy life again!
What Exercises Should You Do for Spondylosis?
Everyone is different. It is best to seek your physiotherapist’s advice to solve your back pain and stiffness related to arthritis quickly. And as mentioned earlier, core exercises are essential!
How Can Physiotherapy Help Your Spondylosis?
Physiotherapists are highly qualified in the assessment and treatment of spondylosis.
Your physiotherapist will help you to:
- Quickly relieve pain
- Loosen stiff joints and muscles
- Strengthen your core muscles to stabilise the injured joints
- Improve your everyday living
Please seek specific advice from your spinal physiotherapist or doctor.
Common Lower Back Pain Causes
The following conditions may cause lower back pain.
- Back Cramps
- Back Muscle Pain
- Core Stability Deficiency
- DOMS - Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness
- Side Strain
- Back Stress Fracture
- Scheuermann's Disease
- Spinal Stenosis
- Stress Fracture Spine (Cricket Bowlers)
Back Joint Injuries
Youth Spinal Pain
Teenager Neck & Back Pain
Teenagers can be particularly vulnerable to back pain, mainly due to a combination of high flexibility and low muscle strength and posture control.
The competitive athlete and most individuals who exercise regularly or maintain fitness and core stability control are less prone to spine injury and problems due to the strength and flexibility of supporting structures. Luckily, issues involving the lower lumbar spine are rare in athletes and account for less than 10% of sports-related injuries. Injuries do occur in contact sports and with repetitive strain sports. Your physiotherapist can assist in the resolution of any deficits in this area.
Sports such as gymnastics, cricket fast bowlers, and tennis have a higher incidence of associated lumbar spine problems related to repetitive twisting and hyper-bending motions.
Spondylolisthesis is a significant concern and needs to be appropriately treated by a physiotherapist with a particular interest in these types of injuries. Luckily, most injuries are minor, self-limited, and respond quickly to physiotherapy treatment.
Common Adolescent Spinal Injuries
Lower Back (Lumbar Spine)
Midback (Thoracic Spine)
Neck (Cervical Spine)
For specific advice regarding youth neck or back pain, please seek the professional advice of your trusted spinal physiotherapist or doctor.