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What Is Spondylosis?

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Spondylosis is arthritis that affects that spine. That's the simplest definition possible. Actually, looking at the Latin roots might give the simplest definition possible. Spondy means spine; losis means problem. Spondylosis, then, is a problem with your spine, but doctors today use it to specifically mean arthritis in the spine.

Spondylosis is a degenerative spinal disorder, meaning that it's part of aging. As we get older, our bodies tend to wear out—no surprise there. Years of use and overuse can cause parts of the spine, especially the joints, ligaments, and intervertebral discs, to change and not work as well.

However, aging is an individual process. Just as some people go gray earlier, some people will feel the effects (mostly pain) of their aging spine earlier. In fact, some people may not have much pain ever. It all depends on how the parts of your spine are changing and if those changes are affecting the spinal cord or spinal nerves.

Spondylosis can affect all regions of the spine, another factor determining what symptoms you have. You can have spondylosis in your neck (cervical spine), mid-back (thoracic spine), or low back (lumbar spine).

You may hear spondylosis referred to by other names: spinal arthritis or spinal osteoarthritis.

Updated on: 03/12/12
Jason M. Highsmith, MD
This article was reviewed by Jason M. Highsmith, MD.
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Anatomy of Spondylosis

Before you can understand why spondylosis causes back pain, you should understand the parts of your spine and how they work together. This quick anatomy lesson shows you what spinal components are affected by spondylosis.
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