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.
What is Back Muscle Pain?
Back muscle pain or its aliases: pulled back muscle, back muscle spasm, torn back muscle or back muscle strain, is very common. Back muscle pain is the most common source of back pain. The good news is that it is also one of the quickest to heal and rehabilitate.
What Causes Back Muscle Pain?
Most causes of low back pain are muscle, ligament or joint-related. Commonly, these muscular strains, ligament sprains and joint dysfunction arises suddenly during or following physical loading of your spine. Muscle fatigue, excessive loads, high speeds or poor lifting postures are the most common causes.
The causes of pure back pain are numerous but roughly fall into the following categories.
Back Muscle Strains
Muscle pain is the most common source of back pain. Muscle fatigue, excessive loads or poor lifting or sitting postures are the most common problems.
Inefficient, weak, or back muscles that lack endurance or normal contraction timing can lead to reduced joint stabilisation and subsequent injury to your back muscles, ligaments, joints or even spinal discs.
Poor posture, when sitting, standing and lifting at work, can place unnecessary stress upon your spine. With muscle fatigue or overstretching, your ligaments and discs can stretch, and this puts spinal joint muscles and nerves under pain-causing pressure or strain, which results in back pain.
Ligaments are the durable, fibrous bands that limit the amount of movement available at each spinal level. Stretching ligaments too far or too quickly will tear them with subsequent bleeding into the surrounding tissues, causing swelling, muscular spasm and pain.
Awkward lifting, sports injuries and motor vehicle accidents are prevalent causes. Just as in other regions of the body, physiotherapy hastens ligament healing and relieves pain so that you can enjoy life again as soon as possible.
What are the Symptoms of Back Muscle Pain?
Back muscle pain symptoms may range from a mild ache to sudden debilitating back pain.
Typical back muscle pain symptoms include:
- Localised back pain, with no radiation into your buttock or leg.
- Back muscle tenderness and spasm.
- Protective back stiffness.
- Sudden back pain onset.
You will usually feel better when resting and may find a change of position painful, e.g. sit to stand, rolling in bed, walking or bending.
How is Back Muscle Pain Diagnosed?
Differentiating a back muscle strain from a ligament sprain can be difficult, as both injuries will show similar symptoms. In general, it doesn't significantly matter what you call the problem because the treatment and prognosis for both back muscular strains and ligament sprains are similar. Most spinal practitioners refer to both injuries as a category called a "Back Strain" or "Musculoligamentous Strain".
X-rays and CT scans do not identify muscle or ligament injury. MRI scan is probably the best diagnostic test to determine the muscle or ligament structures injured.
What is Back Muscle Pain Treatment?
Seek a Professional Diagnosis!
A spinal healthcare practitioner, such as your physiotherapist, should thoroughly; examine you to exclude more severe sources of back pain.
Numerous injuries can cause back pain, and the treatment does vary significantly depending on your diagnosis. Physiotherapy treatment aims to protect your damaged tissue while hastening your muscle and ligament healing and then look at strategies to prevent a recurrence.
Your physiotherapist has some nifty tricks for quickly relieving your back pain so that you can enjoy life again as soon as possible.
How To Avoid Repeat Back Strain
While it is easier to understand that lifting a heavy load in an awkward position can cause back pain, it's harder to comprehend how a simple movement can hurt your back. Yes, it can happen by merely leaning forwards to pick up your teacup or when bending to brush your teeth! We do know that some people are vulnerable to repeated lower back sprains and strains.
The reason is poor local joint control. The main reason for this is inadequate or non-existent muscle activation of the deep core stability muscles. These muscles are small but are right next to the joint to control excessive slides and glides. When they don't work correctly, the joint can slide too far and strain its supporting ligaments. Ouch! That hurts.
The good news is You can easily correct poor core stability to prevent back pain. Don't hesitate to contact your physio for more information or to have your core activation accurately assessed.
High-risk factors of back pain include:
- sudden forceful movement
- lifting a heavy object
- twisting the back
- coughing or sneezing
- prolonged sitting with poor posture
Suffering Back Pain. What Should You Do?
While lower back pain is commonplace, the diagnosis of the cause of your back pain is specific to you, and therefore, the treatment or investigation pathway varies for each case.
A spinal health care professional can assist you with a prompt diagnosis, early referral, acute and chronic back pain relief, plus long-term self-management or back pain prevention strategies specific to you. You should feel confident that your practitioner has screened you for particular pathologies that require urgent medical attention. They should assess you for neurological deficits such as:
- loss of bowel or bladder function,
- leg muscle weakness,
- loss of sensation,
- diminished reflexes,
- and day-to-day operation.
A thorough assessment will determine whether you have radiculopathy or stenosis. This diagnosis is essential since treatment usually differs from NSLBP or radicular pain.
For specific recommendations, please consult a musculoskeletal physiotherapist or another spinal healthcare practitioner.
You probably already know that back pain has a nasty habit of returning within a few months of the initial injury. Research has shown that you have an 80% chance of recurring back pain within 12 months of the first episode. The good news is that you can reduce your chances significantly if you do the right thing early.
What Should You Do When You Suffer Back Pain?
The latest research recommends that you only spend a day or two resting in bed. More extended periods cause muscle weakness which ultimately makes repeat back pain more likely.
Ice or Heat?
We recommend ice treatment for 20 minutes every 2 or 3 hours for the first 48 hours. The ice should help reduce your pain, swelling and back spasms. After a few days, you are safe to use heat packs. We usually recommend avoiding heat (and heat rubs) in the first 48 hours. Heat packs encourage bleeding, which could be detrimental if used too early.
Should You Use a Back Brace?
A back brace can help you to get back on your feet or allow you to return to work sooner. We don't encourage long-term use because research has shown that your stomach and back muscles will weaken as you become reliant on the brace.
What Medication Should You Use?
Your Doctor or Pharmacist may recommend pain relief in the form of paracetamol or an anti-inflammatory. You are best seeking their advice as certain drugs can interfere with other health conditions.
When Should You Commence Physio?
In severe cases, when the slightest movement causes unbelievable pain or spasm, it may be best to wait a day or two to start treatment. This delay will allow the majority of swelling to settle. Slight niggles or "my back feels out" sufferers can usually commence treatment (and maybe fixed) on the day of injury. If you are not sure what to do, please call us for advice. We'll happily guide you in your time of need.
What About Core Stability Training?
The current physiotherapy and fitness training trend is 'core stability training' (back and abdominal muscle control).
What If You Do Nothing?
"Back pain is something you could be suffering needlessly". Research tells us that symptoms lasting longer than three months become habitual and are much harder to solve. The sooner you get on top of your symptoms, the better your outcome and the quicker you'll get back to living your life.
What Results Should You Expect from Physiotherapy?
Not only will your physio diagnose the cause of your pain and give you the "peace of mind" associated, but they'll also help you to:
- Relieve your pain quicker
- Cope better with your pain using proven strategies and tips
- Get you back to work and play quicker through faster healing rates.
- Loosen and strengthen your back with individually prescribed exercises
- Prevent future bouts of back pain via our holistic back pain management approach
Think about it. Back Pain is Something You Could be Suffering Needlessly.
Please use our expert advice to guide you out of pain quicker and for a lot longer.
If you have any questions regarding your back pain (or any other condition), please call us now to discuss your situation. You'll find our friendly staff happy to point you in the right direction.