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John Murtagh, Patient Education, Third edition, McGraw-Hill Book Company

What is spondyIosis?
Spondylosis is a condition of the spine in which it is
hardened and stiffened by osteoarthritis. It is also referred to as
degenerative disease of the spine. The two areas commonly
affected are the neck (cervical spondylosis) and the lower back
(lumbar spondylosis).
What causes it?
Constant wear and tear and injury to the joints of the spine
cause arthritis in the joints. The discs, which are like soft
rubber shock absorbers between the vertebrae, become hard
and stiff as they shrink with age. This causes strains on all the
surrounding joints and tissues, leading to stiffness. It is
common in people who have worked hard with their backs
(such as labourers and farmers) and those who have had
injuries (such as in car accidents). The older one gets, the more
likely one is to get spondylosis.
What are the symptoms?
Many milder cases cause no symptoms. The common
symptoms are stiffness and tenderness in the neck or lower
back, especially first thing in the morning or after activity such
as gardening or painting.
CervicaI spondyIosis
This can cause a painful neck with headache and aches and
pains in the surrounding areas. The neck feels very stiff, which
makes it hard to turn around (while reversing the car, for
example). The head can feel like a heavy cannonball.
Lumbar spondyIosis
Common symptoms are stiffness and pain in the lower back
with poor movements (such as difficulty in bending forwards).
Shooting pains in the buttocks and legs resulting in sciatica are
common. There may be pain in the back of the legs after a long
walk. This uncommon problem is caused by narrowing of the
space inside the spine from overgrowth of the bones due to
arthritis and may require an operation.
What is the treatment?
It is important to keep active, but do not overdo the activity.
A sensible balance between mild to moderate exercise and rest
is necessary, but it has to be 'played by ear' as each individual
is different. You should be able to live comfortably with
spondylosis with exercise, following your physiotherapist's
advice and taking medication. It is usual for the discomfort to
improve with time, although the stiffness remains.
Regular gentle exercise for your neck or lower back will
help you. You will be advised by your doctor or
physiotherapist about the best exercises for you, but gentle,
slow stretching exercises to as far as you can stretch are
recommended. Swimming or hydrotherapy will help overcome
the stiffness.
Regular use of mild pain-killers such as aspirin or
paracetamol will relieve your aches and pains. Your doctor
may prescribe a course of anti-inflammatory drugs.