Although “spondylosis” isn’t exactly a household word, the prevalence of this degenerative disease is quite common. In fact, it’s estimated that more than 200,000 Americans suffer from one form of spondylosis or another. While there is no known cure, natural treatment options are readily available.
Fortunately, just by understanding the causes, symptoms and risk factors, you can reduce your chances of developing spondylosis — an age-related ailment that wreaks havoc on your delicate spine. Physical therapists and chiropractors agree: Spondylosis can significantly limit your opportunities and can even decrease the quality of your life.
A doctor or chiropractor will diagnose you with spondylosis if noticeable deterioration has taken place along any sector of your spine. Using detailed imaging which often includes MRIs, x-rays and CT scans, spinal damage is discovered and the necessary treatment plans are then formulated. In most cases, patients recover or reverse their spondylosis spinal deterioration without taking medication or undergoing surgery. However, all cases are unique.
What Is Spondylosis?
Research shows that 80 percent of all people 40 years and older show signs of spondylosis on an x-ray examination. Doctors believe the majority of cases are associated with genetics and injury. However, there are a wide variety of causes that should be taken into serious consideration.
Spondylosis is a broad term describing vertebral discs in the spine that have suffered from some sort of deterioration. Commonly associated with age, this condition is non-life-threatening but can still cause a whole host of other physical, mental and emotional problems that are just as, if not more, damaging to a person’s well-being. Because spondylosis typically worsens with age and there are only treatments and not cures, it’s very important to begin taking preventative measures as early as possible.
Typically, spondylosis is separated into three categories. Each one is based primarily on the location of the degeneration, although degeneration can be experienced in more than one area simultaneously.
The main types of spondylosis are:
Cervical spondylosis is centralized in the neck area and is characterized by the following symptoms:
- Numbness and/or tingling in the arms, legs, hands and feet
- Difficulty standing or walking
- Poor coordination
- Bladder and bowel control problems
Interestingly, many people do not experience any symptoms with this type of spondylosis.
Located in the mid to upper back, thoracic spondylosis typically carries with it the following symptoms:
- Problems standing and/or walking
- Poor coordination
- Poor balance
- Numbness and/or tingling in the feet, legs and toes
- Bad posture
Thoracic spondylosis is quite common, especially in individuals who have regularly strained their spine over long periods.
Central to the vertebrae in the lower back, lumbar spondylosis produces symptoms similar to cervical and thoracic spondylosis, including the numbness, tingling and coordination problems. It’s most common among people who sit or stand a lot, although it can occur regardless of your lifestyle habits or work environment.
Main Causes of Spondylosis
Generally caused by a naturally occurring degenerative process within the discs of the spine, all three types of spondylosis can also be caused by prolonged pressure or progressive wear and tear on the spine or musculoskeletal system. The three main causes of spondylosis are as follows:
As you age, the cartilage between the vertebrae in your back begin to deteriorate and doctors still aren’t sure exactly why.
Scientists have recently discovered that some people are genetically predisposed to spondylosis and other musculoskeletal disorders.
A chiropractor handles dozens of injury-related spondylosis cases each year, and offices around the world are full of similar stories. Typically, the development could have been avoided or slowed down with routine chiropractic adjustments and proper nutrition.
Certain lifestyle choices leave you open to the development of spondylosis. Those habits and choices will be discussed below.
What you need to know right now is that many times, untreated spondylosis leads to tender bone spurs, or osteophytes. Those spurs form in the back along the vertebrae, causing serious mobility issues, severe pain and in rare cases, paralysis.
Spondylosis Prevention: Know the Risk Factors
While it’s certain that your risk of developing spondylosis will increase as you get older regardless of your habits or lifestyle choices, some behaviors can exacerbate the progression of any deterioration in the spine. Furthermore, your medical history may contribute to your risk as well. Prepare for regular chiropractic adjustments if you have arthritis or other musculoskeletal conditions in your family.
The most common risk factors of spondylosis are similar to the risk factors of most musculoskeletal disorders and include but aren’t always limited to the following:
Without adequate amounts of bone-supporting vitamins and minerals, your body becomes less likely to stand tall as the years progress.
Posture effects all sorts of things, including your overall spinal health. A prolonged bad stance can cause minor injuries, pain and decreased range of motion — all of which can lead to spondylosis.
Not only does smoking wreak havoc on your lungs, but it also sucks all the calcium right out of your bones. Too much of that and you’re the next victim of cervical, thoracic and/or lumbar spondylosis.
Some injuries can contribute to the development of rheumatoid or inflammatory arthritis and eventual spondylosis, especially if there’s been damage done to the spine or if the injury has been left untreated for too long.
Your weight plays a huge role in the health and functionality of your spine. Obesity is a very common cause of spondylosis, namely (but not exclusively) in senior citizens.
3 All-Natural Spondylosis Treatments
Unfortunately for some, their spondylosis is simply too progressive to treat or heal without invasive procedures. Those individuals are typically forced to use unnatural remedies such as:
- Cortisone injections
- Prescription muscle relaxers
- Over-the-counter pain relievers
- Anti-inflammatory medications
- Electrical stimulation (e-stim)
On the other hand, holistic, drug-free spondylosis treatment options are available to those who see an experienced chiropractor or visit a chiropractic clinic, like Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab in Juneau. Alternative medicine practitioners use a wide variety of natural remedies, including:
- Applying heat and/or ice intermittently
- Gentle stretching
- Targeted exercise
- Behavior modification
- Diet and exercise planning
Carefully guided physiotherapeutic techniques can help to prevent future injuries while also shortening your recovery time and reducing your pain. Properly executed treatments protect the soft tissue in your spine and significantly decrease your chances of developing spondylosis even as your age progresses. Furthermore, the following natural treatments can help as well:
1. Chiropractic Adjustments
A well-trained chiropractor can perform a gentle spinal adjustment to relieve any unnecessary pressure on your vertebrae and discs. This is usually pain-free, done in-office and requires zero recovery time.
2. Chiropractic Massage
Chiropractic is more than simply cracking joints and relieving pinched nerves. A good targeted massage can do wonders for a misaligned spine, virtually eliminating your chances of developing spondylosis if done regularly and paired with a healthy lifestyle.
3. Rest and Relaxation
Sometimes all you need is some good old-fashioned R&R to prevent spondylosis and/or treat its uncomfortable symptoms. Never underestimate the power of taking care of yourself.
Although neither lumbar, cervical nor thoracic spondylosis are life-threatening, the symptoms thereof can drastically reduce the quality of your life. Natural treatment options are designed to help patients who don’t want to take potentially harmful pharmaceuticals or undergo dangerous surgical operations. While many of the treatments mentioned here require little to no supportive medications, most of them provide room for supplemental pain management.
Spondylosis at a Glance
As a spinal condition that often gets worse with age, spondylosis is experienced in one or all of the three major sectors of the spine: the upper portion (or cervical zone), the middle area (or thoracic zone) and the lower part (or lumbar zone). Each one has unique characteristics and symptoms, although some may share a few. Regardless, spondylosis is often preventable but it has no known cure as of yet.
Regular chiropractic treatments are known to help prevent spondylosis and/or treat its subsequent symptoms. Through natural, drug-free remedies, people can relieve themselves of the pain and discomfort associated with this degenerative disease. It’s important to note, however, that some of the severest cases of spondylosis require more intense treatments such as traction, injections and surgery. Be sure to discuss the pros and cons with your doctor or chiropractor beforehand.
Understanding the risk factors of spondylosis can help you avoid the symptoms, not to mention it can aid in early detection. With proper assistance from a well-trained chiropractor, plus a healthy diet and responsible lifestyle, you should be able to live a long and happy life without a spondylosis problem. However, if you feel as though there’s something not quite right with your neck or back, don’t hesitate to see a musculoskeletal expert right away.
Remember: not all people experience symptoms of spondylosis, so have a chiropractor perform routine checkups and adjustments on your spine just to be safe.
Serving Juneau, Wasilla, Anchorage and the surrounding communities, Dr. Brent Wells offers patient-centered, personalized, and innovative chiropractic care. A California native, Dr. Wells earned a bachelors of science degree from the University of Nevada. He then attended Western States Chiropractic College in Portland, Oregon. In 1998, he and his wife Coni moved to Alaska and opened Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab. He is a proud member of the American Chiropractic Association and the American Academy of Spine Physicians.
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