Dealing with issues of the lower spine can be painful enough without trying to learn all the technical terms for your condition. These three conditions – spondylosis, spondylitis, and spondylolisthesis – may sound overwhelming at first, but understanding the differences can be important in determining your next steps for back pain treatment.
All three of these terms begin with “spondy,” which refers to the spinal column. Keep reading to understand what parts of the spine can be impacted by each condition and how.
Though it is most common in the neck and back, spondylosis can affect any region of the spine. It describes a form of spinal degeneration that happens as the structure of the spine changes and support is lost, usually as a result of wear and tear due to aging. In spondylosis, there is a defect in the pars interarticularis, a piece of bone that attaches the facet joints at the back of the spine.
However, spondylosis is not only brought on by aging. Anyone who participates in a sport that requires repeated hyperextension of the lower back, like gymnastics or rowing, is at risk for developing these problems early. Symptoms may not be as obvious in these cases, making diagnosis rare, so proactively checking your spine’s strength is helpful in managing the condition.
A common diagnostic measure is known as the one-legged hyperextension maneuver. While standing in a certain position on one leg, the lumbar spine is stretched. If this causes pain, it’s a sign of the condition. Spondylosis can usually be treated through conservative methods like braces, pain management, and simple stretching. In severe cases, spinal decompression or spinal fusion surgeries can be performed to relieve pressure and increase stabilization.
Untreated spondylosis can lead to a slipped vertebra, known as spondylolisthesis, when one bone of the spine slips forward over another, damaging the spinal structure. This can be a result of spinal fractures, damage to the discs, or even family history and congenital defects. Certain activities, like weight lifting and tackle football, also increase risk. Age-related degeneration or work in warehouses may allow spondylolisthesis to occur more rapidly.
Some people experience symptoms like back and leg pain, while others may never realize they have spondylolisthesis without an x-ray. Once it’s discovered, conservative measures may be used, or pain can be managed with epidural steroid injections. For those who don’t respond to these methods, surgery is common. Spinal fusion surgery can stabilize the spine, preventing further damage and restoring function.
Another common cause of spinal problems is a certain form of arthritis. While arthritis just refers to inflammation in the joints, spondylitis or spondyloarthropathy is a type of rheumatic arthritis that affects areas where ligaments and tendons attach to bone. The cause of this is not known, but there may be a genetic component or a response to infections at the root. Other types of arthritis can impact the spine as well, such as reactive arthritis or psoriatic arthritis. Spinal problems as a result of arthritis are known as spondylitis. This usually occurs in young adults between the ages of 17 and 35 years old and may begin with chronic pain and stiffness in the lower back, especially after long periods of rest. The morning and late evening are when symptoms are usually the worst, and they may spread to other parts of the body like the rib cage. Inflammation of the skin, eyes, and gastrointestinal tract is also possible.
Like arthritis, there is no known cure for spondylitis. Instead, symptoms can be managed to reduce pain and prevent worsening of the condition. Both medication and exercise can help with pain, stiffness, posture, and flexibility. Again, severe cases may be better treated through surgery like a laminectomy or osteotomy. Severe damage can also be repaired through spinal fusion surgery.
Managing Spinal Conditions
Any damage to your spine can have catastrophic effects, from pain to complete debilitation. This is because the spine is so important to not just your back, but every part of your body and nervous system. If you are experiencing any pain in your lower back, chiropractic can help! Regular chiropractic care and screening can be extremely important. At AICA Jonesboro, our team of specialists will be able to discuss your concerns, diagnose any problems, and create comprehensive treatment and prevention plans designed to meet your needs. With access to chiropractors, orthopedic surgeons, physical therapists, and more, AICA Jonesboro can address any spinal concerns at once through a holistic point of view