Spinal Osteoarthritis, commonly referred to as Spondylosis, is a term used for spinal degeneration. It affects any one of the spinal regions i.e. cervical (neck), thoracic (mid-back), or lumbar (low back) and is often caused by ageing. Following are the most common elements of the spinal structure affected by the disorder:
- Facet joints: Facet joints a.k.a. zygapophyseal joints are articulating joints in the spine that allow human beings to flex, and rotate among other movements. In this context, it is important to understand the role cartilage plays here. The facet joints' articulating surfaces are covered with cartilage -- a connective tissue that supplies a low-friction gliding surface. The degeneration of this joint leads to loss of cartilage and formation of osteophytes.
- Intervertebral discs: Over time, some naturally-occurring biochemical changes in the human body have an impact on tissue. In reference to the spinal structure, these changes affect and damage the structure of intervertebral discs, including annulus fibrosus, lamellae, and nucleus pulposus. The annulus fibrosus is the sturdy tyre-like exterior encasing the intervertebral disc's soft inner core, the nucleus pulposus. Annulus fibrosus is made of concentric bands of collagen fibre called lamellae. Progressive deterioration, often brought on by ageing, can compromise the annulus fibrosus. The nucleus can also become dehydrated with age, thus affecting its ability to absorb shock. Other than that, structural changes caused due to degeneration may also increase the patient's risk for disc herniation.
- Bones and ligaments: Osteophytes, the bony protrusions linked with the decay of cartilage at joints, can materialize next to vertebral end plates which serve as the interface between the stiff vertebral bodies and intervertebral discs. This, in turn, can affect the supply of blood to the vertebra. Or the end plates may become stiff because of sclerosis. Ligaments, the fibrous tissue connecting spinal structures, may suffer the loss of some of their strength due to degeneration. Degenerative changes can also cause the ligamentum flavum to thicken and become bent.
As mentioned earlier, spondylosis can affect different spinal regions. Here are some symptoms, in accordance to the affected region, that you can watch out for:
- Neck: Neck pain due to spondylosis can spread into the shoulder(s) or the arms(s). Furthermore, when an osteophyte induces nerve compression, the patient my experience weakness in their extremities. In some extreme cases, especially in elder people, formation of anterior cervical osteophytes can lead to difficulty in swallowing a.k.a. dysphagia.
- Mid-back: Thoracic spondylosis is comparatively uncommon and is mostly observed in people over the age of 50. In addition to dehydration of cartilage and intervertebral discs due to chemical changes, ageing can also affect the thoracic spine's soft tissue including tendons and ligaments that can lose water and shrivel. This, in turn, results in the misalignment of bones. Symptoms of thoracic spondylosis include pain in the mid-back, numbness or tingling in the extremities, arms, and legs, difficulty walking, and muscle weakness.
- Low back: Lumbar spondylosis is the most common form of spondylosis since the lumbar spine bears most of the human body's weight. It usually causes pain and stiffness in the morning. Being seated for extended durations or recurrent movement like bending and lifting can also inflame pain.
Though dealing with spondylosis requires medical attention, you can alleviate your pain and discomfort with some convenient and practical methods such as heat and ice therapy or ointments such as the Moov pain relief cream. Made from herbal ingredients like mint leaves and turpentine oil, it provides instant relief from a variety of aches and pains.