Spondylosis is a blanket term for age-related wear and tear in the spine that may cause pain.

As the cartilage in your joints wears out and discs lose volume and become dried or cracked, your bones start to rub against each other with no support or lubrication. This creates bone spurs, which may cause pain and permanent joint damage. Spondylosis is also known as spinal osteoarthritis. This condition can affect any section of the spine but more commonly affects the cervical spine. Spinal degeneration is a natural part of aging that may or may not cause pain. Some living with this condition experience severe, chronic pain, while others experience intermittent pain. Others may be completely asymptomatic. Spondylosis affects everyone differently and may evolve. Some patients may find their symptoms worsen over time, while others see no longitudinal change in their pain.

Treatment Options

  • Rest your back as often as possible
  • Ice or heat therapy
  • Yoga, functional mobility training, and gentle stretching
  • Exercise or weightlifting to strengthen back muscles
  • Improving posture
  • Medication: OTC pain medication, OTC topical creams, NSAIDs, prescription pain medication, or muscle relaxants
  • Physical, chiropractic, or massage therapy
  • Wearing a back brace
  • Medial branch blocks and radiofrequency ablation
  • Surgery


Many living with spondylosis may experience small flares of their condition, while others live in constant, chronic pain.

Sudden movements or transitioning from positions can trigger symptoms. Common symptoms of spondylosis include:

  • Stiffness and mild pain in back
  • Pain exacerbated by certain motions or being immobile
  • Weakness in hands or legs
  • Poor coordination and balance
  • Muscle spasms
  • Headaches
  • Grinding or popping sensation when moving the spine
  • Difficulty walking or controlling your bowels and/or bladder

Diagnostic Tests

Your healthcare provider will ask about the following information:

  • The frequency, duration, and severity of your symptoms
  • Your lifestyle habits and exercise regimen
  • All medications you take, including over-the-counter medicine, supplements, vitamins, illicit drugs, or prescription medication
  • Your medical history, including other medical conditions
  • Any recent or past trauma to the back
    • Your healthcare provider will ask about whiplash, especially if you seek treatment for cervical spondylosis
  • Familial history of similar symptoms

Your healthcare professional will conduct a physical examination to examine your back’s range of motion, flexibility, and strength. They will check your reflexes, muscle strength, and how you walk. They may send you for imaging tests, such as:

  • X-ray
  • CT scan
  • MRI
  • Myelography
  • Electromyography
  • Nerve conduction study


  • Thoracic spondylosis: affects the thoracic spine
  • Lumbar spondylosis: affects the lumbar spine
  • Cervical spondylosis: affects the cervical spine
  • Multilevel spondylosis: affects more than one part of the spine simultaneously


  • Daily wear and tear on spine over time
  • Dehydrated or herniated discs
  • Bone spurs
  • Stiff ligaments in back or neck
  • Osteoarthritis


More than 85% of people age 60 or older live with cervical spondylosis.


Risk factors for developing spondylosis include:

  • Genetic predisposition/family history
  • Being obese or overweight
  • Living a sedentary lifestyle
  • Smoking
  • Repetitive motions of the spine
  • Age
  • Injuries to the spine

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