Spondylosis definition, cause and treatment from a London Osteopath


Spondylosis is a broad term which describes spinal osteoarthritis – meaning degeneration of the facet joints of the spine (the small joints that link vertebra to vertebra).

Spondylosis also means any kind of degeneration in the spine, be it discs, ligaments, tendons, muscles, cartilage and synovial fluid (the oily substance which nutritions the joint and ensures smooth movement).


– Pain during activity (this indicates facet joint osteoarthritis)

– leg pain when walking can indicate spinal stenosis in the lower spine (narrowing of the spinal canal). Arm pain particularly when moving the neck can be due to spinal stenosis in the neck.

The spinal canal narrowing can occur when there are bony growths due to bone rubbing on bone when there is cartilage loss in the facet joints.

The pain could also be coming from degenerative disc disease which can cause back or neck pain and sometimes leg or arm pain. As we grow older, our juicy discs can lose their fluid and become dry and start to lose thickness. This then alters the mechanics of the spine can lead to spondylolisthesis which is when a vertebra slips forward in front of the one above and/or spondylolysis which is a fracture/defect in the pars interarticularis (the facets).

Going to the doctors

It’s important for a doctor to come to a specific diagnosis and state what is causing the pain, rather than using the broad term “spondylosis”. To be more specific on what’s causing the pain, practitioners often use one of the following terms: osteoarthritis, cervical disc degenerative disease, lumbar disc degenerative disease, cervical spinal stenosis or lumbar spinal stenosis.


In order to get the most appropriate treatment for spondylosis – a patient should ask their doctor the following questions:

-Is the degeneration in the facet joints?

If so, this is likely to be osteoarthritis. If the degeneration is in the spinal discs – it is likely to be degenerative disc disease.

-Is there any spinal stenosis?

If someone has degeneration in the spine which is proven by an MRI or other imaging, this isn’t always the cause of pain.

Non Surgical Treatment


Tiny hair width needles are put into areas of the muscles. The needles are twirled, heated and/or electrically stimulated to enhance the treatment. This helps to reduce the associated muscles spasm, or possible wasting and weakness which may occur with spondylosis. Bed rest Severe cases of spondylosis may require bed rest for 1-3 weeks. Longer than this is usually avoided to prevent DVT, muscle wasting and socio-cognitive changes.

Chiropractors, Osteopaths and physiotherapists

Chiropractors usually believe that a problem in the body is caused by a subluxation or displacement in the spine, and by adjusting the spine, the maladaptive neural pathways that can occur in spondylosis are reset and normalised. Some chiropractors will give exercises and nutritional advice but most solely use adjustments (the clicking or cracking) of the spine. You should always see a chiropractor, osteopath and/or physiotherapist through a recommendation, or if you don’t know anyone who has seen one, look at their reviews.

Physical therapy

Exercises can help strengthen weak, wasted muscles which may be contributing to the pain in spondylosis. They may also increase flexibility in the stiff and painful joints that so often occur with the condition. Exercise therapy is often used alongside heat and ice therapy (message me for more information) ultrasound and electrical stimulation which all help to treat muscle spasm.


An osteopath usually will look at the whole body before treating you. For example, if you have pain in your neck, the shoulder, elbow, wrist, upper and lower back will be examined to see if there is any dysfunction there which is causing you to have changes in your neck anatomy. If you upper back isn’t moving correctly, or enough, often the neck will have to be working twice as hard – which may lead to spondylosis (this is what a compensation pattern is). Once a diagnosis and cause has been established, techniques will be performed – some of which may be adjustments alongside massage, joint mobilisations, stretching and work on your nervous system and organs. Exercises and general will be prescribed to help with your conditions and keep you out of pain in the long term.

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Surgery for spondylosis should only be carried out if it is an emergency which would be classified as:

– pelvic pain

– weakness

– incontinence

Surgery options depend on the cause the pain. If there are bony spurs these may be removed to release impinged nerves. Spinal fusion may be necessary to stabilise the spine.

If you have spondylosis, try not to panic. You can’t reverse it but you can make your life completely pain free with the appropriate care and by doing your own homework.

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  • https://www.spine-health.com/conditions/lower-back-pain/spondylosis-what-it-actually-means https://www.spineuniverse.com/conditions/spondylosis/non-surgical-treatment-spondylosis-spinal https://www.com/back_p