Chronic Neck and Back Pain
Underlying changes in the spine’s anatomy and mechanics are usually the cause of chronic back pain. Spondylosis is a painful condition of the spine resulting from the degeneration in the spine.
What Is Spondylosis?
Spondylosis refers to the wear-and-tear on the cartilage (discs) and bones of the neck (vertebrae) and back. It is a common cause of chronic neck and back pain that typically worsens as a person grows older. Spondylosis is more of a descriptive term than it is a clinical diagnosis.
Spondylosis is a degenerative condition of the spine that can affect the spine at any level, resulting in pain and discomfort that can grow worse over time.
What Causes Spondylosis?
As you age, the bones and cartilage that make up your neck and back go through certain changes. These changes are normal, taking place because of the normal wear-and-tear that comes along with getting older. Over time, the discs of the spine start to degenerate (break down), lose fluid, stiffen and lose elasticity and collapse. The thinning of the discs place stress on the facet joints and the ligaments that hold the vertebrae together. These changes can impair the spine’s movement and affect the nerves and other functions.
Problems that spondylosis can lead to include:
- Bone spurs: In an effort to strengthen the spine, the body creates extra amounts of bone. This extra bone, however, can press on the spinal cord and nerves, resulting in pain.
- Stiff ligaments: When ligaments get stiffer, they can make the neck or back feel tight, which affects mobility.
- Herniated discs: When cracks appear on the exterior of the spinal discs, they can start to bulge (herniate). This often leads to pressure on the spinal cord and nerve roots.
- Dehydrated discs: Around age 40, spinal discs start to dry out and shrink. When this happens, discs no longer work as cushions between the vertebrae of your spine. Because of this, more bone-on-bone contact occurs.
Symptoms of Spondylosis
Neck and back pain symptoms vary between people who have cervical or lumbar spondylosis. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and can develop gradually or occur suddenly. Common symptoms may include:
- Neck pain and stiffness
- Back pain and stiffness
- Muscle weakness
- Pain in the shoulder, arm, or hand
- Pain in the buttock, and down the leg (sciatica)
- Abnormal sensations such as tingling or numbness
In rarer cases, patients may experience a loss of balance and/or a loss of bladder control.
If you notice a sudden onset of the symptoms above–especially numbness or loss of bladder or bowel control–seek medical attention. Your doctor may refer you to a spine specialist.
Treatments for Spondylosis
Although the condition can be very painful, it typically doesn’t require surgery. Non-surgical spondylosis treatments may include:
- Medications ranging from over-the-counter pain relievers to prescription pain relievers, muscle relaxants, and anti-inflammatory drugs. Some back pain specialists may suggest steroid injections.
- Physical therapy to help stretch and strengthen the muscles.
- Heat or ice to ease sore muscles that cause neck or back pain.
- Regular exercise to keep the body limber.
- Weight loss to remove excess stress from the body.
While many patients respond well to these non-surgical treatments, there are times when they do not provide adequate pain and/or symptom relief. In such cases we may recommend surgery once the patient’s situation has been carefully and thoroughly evaluated.
If you are in the North Houston, Conroe, The Woodlands, Spring area and believe you need to see a spine specialist for your chronic neck and back pain or have been diagnosed with spondylosis, call our office at 281-880-0700 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Fayaz.