(spinal osteoarthritis) is a degenerative disorder that may cause loss
of normal spinal structure and function. Although aging is the
primary cause, the location and rate of degeneration is individual.
The degenerative process of spondylosis may affect the cervical
(neck), thoracic (mid-back), or lumbar (low back) regions of the
This diagram may help you better
understand what the medical terms are explaining that in most cases,
results in chronic back pain in one or more areas for you.
As people age, certain biochemical changes occur affecting tissue
found throughout the body. In the spine, the structure of the
intervertebral discs (annulus fibrosus, lamellae, nucleus pulposus)
may be compromised. The annulus fibrosus (eg, tire-like) is composed
of 60 or more concentric bands of collagen fiber termed lamellae. The
nucleus pulposus is a gel-like substance inside the intervertebral
disc encased by the annulus fibrosus. Collagen fibers form the nucleus
along with water and proteoglycans. The degenerative effects of aging
can weaken the annulus fibrosus' structure, causing the 'tire tread'
to wear or tear. The water content of the nucleus decreases with age
affecting its ability to rebound following compression (e.g. shock
absorbing quality). The structural alterations from degeneration may
decrease disc height and increase the risk for disc herniation.
Spondylosis Symptoms and
Different Spinal Levels
The complexity of the cervical (neck) anatomy and its wide range of
motion make this spinal segment susceptible to disorders associated
with degenerative change. Neck pain from spondylosis is common. The
pain may spread into the shoulder or down the arm. When a bone spur (osteophyte)
causes nerve root compression, extremity (eg, arm) weakness may
result. In rare cases, bone spurs that form at the front of the
cervical spine, may cause difficult swallowing (dysphagia).
Pain associated with degenerative disease is often triggered by
forward flexion and hyperextension. In the thoracic spine disc pain
may be caused by flexion--facet pain by perextension.
Lumbar (Low Back)
Spondylosis often affects the lumbar spine in people over the age of
40. Pain and morning stiffness are common complaints. Usually multiple
levels are involved (eg, more than one vertebrae). The lumbar spine
carries most of the body's weight. Therefore, when degenerative forces
compromise its structural integrity, symptoms including pain may
accompany activity. Movement stimulates pain fibers in the annulus
fibrosus and facet joints. Sitting for prolonged periods of time may
cause pain and other symptoms due to pressure on the lumbar vertebrae.
Repetitive movements such as lifting and bending (eg, manual labor)
may increase pain.
Index of Chronic Pain Management