Spondylosis is the medical term used to describe the appearance of degenerative changes in the spine. These degenerative changes are most commonly age-related and, therefore, their frequency increases with age. By the age of 50, most people will have some evidence of spondylosis on imaging. In most cases, spondylosis is not accompanied by clinical symptoms, although it is of course true that symptoms are common. There are effectively 2 general ways in which spinal spondylosis can become clinically symptomatic. These are spinal pain and/or the pain due to nerve root entrapment. The symptoms of nerve root entrapment are described in the sections of this website entitled Sciatica/Leg Pain, Brachialgia/Arm Pain and Spinal Stenosis.
More common than these symptoms is spinal pain related to the spondylosis and, therefore, with cervical spondylosis this produces neck pain and with lumbar spondylosis this produced low back pain. As you might imagine, thoracic spondylosis would produce mid back pain but is considerably less common than neck or low back pain.
The symptoms of cervical spondylosis as, as has been said, most commonly neck pain. This pain can radiate up to the back of the head as well as down to the area of the spine between the shoulder blades. Indeed, the most common cause of spinal pain experienced between the shoulder blades is cervical spondylosis rather than thoracic spondylosis. In addition, cervical spondylosis can manifest itself with neck pain radiating out to one or both shoulders. It can also produce significant neck stiffness and reduced mobility of the neck and head.
Lumbar spondylosis is, if anything, even more common that cervical spondylosis and is characterised by low back pain. This back pain can be very localised or more generalised band-like pain across the low back. It can be associated with sciatica (hyperlink) but is commonly manifest by back pain without sciatica. The back pain is often positional and, therefore, affected by sitting, standing, walking and lying but it does vary considerably as which of these activities exacerbates the symptoms in an individual.
Given that spondylosis is effectively wear and tear of the spine, it could be reasonably described as a form of arthritis. However, it should be emphasized that it is in the vary majority of cases not in any way an inherited or genetic condition and, therefore, entirely different from the much rarer forms of arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis.