Spondylosis: The Treatment Options
What Is Spondylosis?
Also known as spinal osteoarthritis, spondylosis is a surprisingly common condition, and it can strike any region of the back. While not all cases are symptomatic, pain often arises with this condition when discs in the spine degenerate, leading to slipped disc or the development of bone spurs, which pinch nerve roots and cause inflammation.  Most often the symptoms, which include stiffness, numbness, and tingling alongside pain, are felt in the neck and lower back.
The tricky thing about this condition—like all forms of arthritis—is that the most common causes are age-related cellular changes and wear and tear. It’s often in older individuals; however, people of all ages can develop it. What can be done about spondylosis? What does treatment look like? Here’s a quick rundown of the most common approaches to this condition:
While there are a number of surgical approaches to spondylosis (see below), they’re rarely the first line of treatment. In most cases, pharmaceutical drugs will be indicated to take on the pain and inflammation. In minor cases, over-the-counter drugs like Acetaminophen, the active drug in Tylenol, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) as in ibuprofen, Advil, or others are recommended. In other cases, doctors may suggest taking prescription strength NSAIDs, pain-killing opioids like Oxycontin or Percocet, or muscle-relaxing drugs like valium. 
While these all have their place in treatment, there is always the risk of side-effects or other issues. It’s important to follow instructions and indications closely when taking them.
In more difficult to manage cases, injection of corticosteroids into the affected can also be an effective means to mitigate pain and other symptoms. There are two major types that may be indicated:
- Epidural Steroid Injection: Especially effective for lumbar (lower back) pain, this injection of steroids accesses the epidural space: the one surrounding the membrane covering the nerves and spine itself.  Steroids have a strong anti-inflammatory effect, so within a couple days pain and problems start to disappear. Sometimes this injection is paired with an anesthetic to provide both immediate and more longer-term relief.
- Facet Joint Injection: Employing the same principle as epidural steroid injections, this type—also known as “facet block”—targets the facet joints, which are essential in mobility of the spine.  Reducing inflammation and blocking off pain messaging in this area can help make spondylosis more manageable.
Both types of injection are highly effective; however, it should be noted that they won’t represent a permanent solution to the problem. Patients may either need to return for subsequent injections or explore other options.
This refers to a range of surgical approaches aimed at stabilizing and relieve pressure on the nerves that’s often at the root of spondylosis associated pain and discomfort. There are three major types:
- Foraminotomy: The surgical widening of the foramen, or the space within spine bones that allows the spinal cord to pass through, this procedure eases pressure and pain in areas affected by spondylosis.
- Laminectomy: The removal of the arches in the back of spinal bones to relieve compression on nerves, reducing pain and inflammation.
- Discectomy: Another means of easing pressure and inflammation associated with spondylosis, this surgery involves the removal of all or part of a spinal disc.
The specific surgery indicated depends on the case, but decompression promises to provide lasting and effective relief from spondylosis symptoms.
The main aim of this surgery is to provide stability to the vertebrae and remove damaged and problematic material. Sometimes indicated alongside decompression surgery, the procedure often involves “welding” together adjacent bones to increase stability. In some cases, this is bolstered by the use of prosthetics for all or part of affected vertebrae.
Surgeries like this are growing increasingly more effective, with methods that are much less invasive than they were in years past.
Free of Pain, Free of Suffering
Spondylosis is incredibly debilitating—it’s chronic pain, it’s numbness, it’s discomfort—but it’s not destiny. Nowadays, not only is there a better understanding of how this condition works, there are better treatment options than ever before to take it on. The important thing is to be proactive; with good doctors—and the support of friends and family—this debilitating disease can be taken on.
If you suffer from spondylosis or any other back or neck pain problem, the team at North American Spine can help. Employing the latest and best in minimally-invasive techniques, these experts have helped countless patients achieve positive, lasting outcomes and relief. Learn more about what they do by calling 469-638-0208 today!
- Stewart G. Eidelson, MD. 2018. “Spondylosis Center – Spinal Osteoarthritis – Symptoms Exercises Treatments”. Spineuniverse. Accessed December 5 2018. https://www.spineuniverse.com/conditions/spondylosis.
- Jason M. Highsmith, MD. 2018. “Drugs, Medications, And Injections For Spondylosis”. Spineuniverse. Accessed December 5 2018. https://www.spineuniverse.com/conditions/spondylosis/drugs-medications-injections-spondylosis.