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What is Spondylosis?
Instead of indicating a specific diagnosis, spondylosis refers to any condition that results in degenerative changes of the spine. Although spondylosis is most commonly used as a synonym for spinal osteoarthritis, a variety of spinal problems fit the broad criteria for spondylosis.
Facet Joint Osteoarthritis (also known as Facet Joint Disease) accounts for the bulk of spondylosis cases. Facet joints are hinges on the back of the spine where bone meets bone—or in this case, where vertebra meets vertebra. As we age, the cumulative effects of everyday wear and tear may cause the rubbery cartilage that cushions our facet joints to erode. This degenerative process triggers a cascade of pain-generating events, as unprotected bone grinds excruciatingly against unprotected bone.
For example—just as calluses may form to reinforce your fingertips against overuse—your facet joints may develop bony protrusions (known as bone spurs) to compensate for the loss of this protective cartilage. These outcroppings of overgrown bone may impinge upon the space typically reserved for neighboring nerves, causing the characteristic symptoms of pinched nerve pain.
Other common causes of spondylosis include:
- Degenerative Disc Disease: As we age, the rubbery intervertebral discs which pad our spine from everyday impact begin to lose their internal moisture. This degenerative process causes our spinal vertebrae to knock into one another, igniting the inflammatory response and accelerating the progression of osteoarthritis.
- Herniated Discs: A collapsed or ruptured intervertebral disc is a common consequence of degenerative disc disease. A “slipped” disc generates the distinctive pain of spondylosis when the ruptured disc material is secreted into the adjacent nerve-rich space.
- Spinal Stenosis: Spondylosis may also emerge as the result of foraminal stenosis, a byproduct of spinal deterioration. During foraminal stenosis, a spinal nerve root is pinched by an obstruction (such as a thickened ligament, enlarged bone, or inflamed tissue) at its point of exit from a tiny passageway in a vertebra, known as a foramen.
- Occupation & Lifestyle: Strenuous jobs that require ample lifting or mentally fatiguing jobs that require ample sitting both place undue strain on the lower back, or lumbar spine. Smoking, abdominal obesity, or participation in high-impact sports can also contribute to accelerated rates of spinal deterioration.
Are you in need of a helping hand to halt the progression of spondylosis and to rediscover what pain-free living feels like? Dr. Frazier—board certified orthopedic surgeon and Harvard graduate—has devoted his life to helping patients explore the full spectrum of minimally invasive spondylosis solutions!
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What are the Symptoms of Spondylosis?
Because the term spondylosis can be applied broadly to describe any manner of spinal degeneration, the symptoms of spondylosis will vary widely. Unless your spondylosis involves nerve compression or facet joint pain, for example, it is possible to have spondylosis and be asymptomatic. However, more commonly, you may notice the following symptoms:
- Radiating Pain: Searing pain that radiates outward to the limbs from the region of spinal degeneration in the neck or back
- Sciatica: Warm pain that erupts from the sciatic nerve in the lower back and diffuses downward through the buttocks, thighs, calves, and feet
- Cervical Radiculopathy: Electric pain that emanates from the site of nerve compression in the neck and down through the shoulders, arms, hands, and/or fingertips
- Paresthesia: Numbness, tingling, or burning sensations in your extremities
- Loss of Balance & Motor Control: Balance disturbances or muscular weakness that impedes your ability to move your arms and legs (gross motor control) or your hands, wrists, fingers, and feet (fine motor skills)
- Facet Joint Stiffness: Progressive inflexibility that interferes with your ability to rotate your head and/or twist, bend, or extend your lumbar spine.
- Activity-Specific Pain: Stiffness and pain that worsens with prolonged sitting or standing; Difficulty walking or maintaining proper posture
- Neck-Related Symptoms: Shoulder blade pain; headaches at the base of the head; dizziness; or “crunching” sensations while rotating the neck
- Emergency Symptoms: Seek urgent medical care if you experience debilitating or excruciating pain; involuntary control of your bowels or bladder; saddle anesthesia (or unrelenting numbness in the saddle region of your inner thighs, buttocks, and groin); or a fever higher than 100.0 oF.
Do your symptoms of chronic neck and back pain sound like spondylosis or a related condition of the spine, such as osteoarthritis? Our board certified spine specialist, Dr. Frazier, has been providing outstanding patient care for nearly 20 years of steadfast service!
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What are the Treatments for Spondylosis?
Treatment options for spondylosis will vary according to the cause of your spinal degeneration. However—regardless of whether your spondylosis results from Facet Joint Disease, Spinal Stenosis, or Degenerative Disc Disease—your doctor will commence treatment by exploring non-surgical options. Effective noninvasive treatments for spondylosis may include: non-steroidal or anti-inflammatory medications to ease acute discomfort; steroidal or epidural injections to soothe irritated nerves; physical therapy to preserve spinal mobility; or alternative therapies, such as myofascial release or yoga.
Under normal circumstances, conservative treatment methods are usually effective at relieving spondylosis pain without the need for surgery. However, after six months of continuous treatment, some individuals will find that their pain continues to worsen in intensity rather than abate. In these instances, Dr. Frazier—our “New York Super Doctor” and Harvard alum—may recommend:
- Laminectomy: A laminectomy is a minimally invasive procedure in which your surgeon removes a thin segment of the lamina—or bony plate that forms the backside of your vertebra. Extraction of the lamina not only achieves bone spur removal, but also accomplishes lumbar nerve decompression—eliminating symptoms of pinched nerve pain that assail the lower body.
- Artificial Disc Replacement: An artificial disc replacement is a sophisticated solution to cervical spondylosis that eliminates the need for a spinal fusion procedure. This outpatient surgical procedure involves removal of the degenerated disc and replacement with a prosthetic model. Avoiding spinal fusion allows the patient to preserve mobility in the neck and decreases the mechanical stress placed on adjacent vertebrae.
- Endoscopic Foraminotomy: An endoscopic foraminotomy is a minimally invasive decompression procedure that is used to reverse foraminal stenosis. During the procedure, your surgeon uses an optical instrument known as an endoscope to visualize problematic regions of bone overgrowth or spinal deterioration. The entire procedure (including endoscope insertion) is performed through a tiny tube that minimizes scarring and protects adjacent nerves from unnecessary trauma.
However, these advancements in spondylosis treatment represent only a fraction of the cutting-edge procedures that are offered at NYC Spine. Redefining relief for nearly 20 years, Dr. Frazier believes that every patient deserves the highest quality of minimally invasive care!
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Dr. Frazier is a Harvard-trained, board certified orthopedic spine surgeon. He’s held an academic appointment at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and New York’s SUNY Downstate. Dr. Frazier is also a respected lecturer, accomplished researcher, published author on spine disorders and treatment, and a consultant for several international spine companies.
After completing his undergraduate education at Brown University, Dr. Frazier attended Harvard Medical School, where he graduated cum laude. He completed a Harvard internship based at the New England Deaconess Hospital in Boston, MA, followed by a Harvard combined residency before becoming chief resident at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Education & Training
MD / Cum Laude
Harvard Medical School
Mass. General Hospital
Spinal Deformity Fellowship
Doctor’s Hospital (Miami, FL)