Spondylosis vs Spondylitis: What’s the Difference?

Are you experiencing back pain? If so, you’re not alone. Approximately 8.2% of Americans have chronic back pain, which is sometimes caused by spondylosis and spondylitis. Understanding the differences between these two conditions is crucial for finding effective relief.

In the content below, we’ll discuss the nuances of spondylosis vs. spondylitis, helping you spot the distinctions. By knowing the differences, you can communicate more effectively with your healthcare provider and explore treatment options.

Don’t let back pain hold you back. Read on to discover the complexities of spondylosis and spondylitis and navigate your way to a pain-free future!

What is Spondylosis?

Spondylosis refers to the natural degeneration of the spine that occurs with age. It often affects the spinal discs, causing them to lose moisture and become less flexible.

This degeneration can lead to the development of bone spurs, which are bony growths that can press against nerves and cause pain. Spondylosis is a common condition that affects many individuals as they grow older.

What is Spondylitis?

Spondylitis is an inflammatory disease that primarily affects the spine, causing pain and stiffness. Unlike spondylosis, spondylitis is characterized by the inflammation of the spinal joints. This inflammation may lead to the fusion of the vertebrae, resulting in a loss of flexibility and mobility in the spine.

Spondylitis is often associated with a condition called ankylosing spondylitis (AS). AS typically starts in the sacroiliac joints, which connect the spine to the pelvis, and can progress to affect the entire spine. The exact cause of AS is unknown, but it is believed to have a genetic component.

Other types of spondylitis include psoriatic arthritis, reactive arthritis, and enteropathic arthritis. These conditions are associated with skin diseases, infections, and inflammatory bowel disease.

The Symptoms of Spondylosis and Spondylitis

The symptoms of spondylosis and spondylitis can overlap. However, there are some key differences to be aware of. In spondylosis, the pain is often localized to the affected area, such as the neck or lower back. The pain may be sharp and may worsen with certain activities. Stiffness and reduced range of motion are common symptoms of spondylosis.

In contrast, spondylitis symptoms typically cause pain and stiffness in the lower back and hips, which may radiate to the buttocks or thighs. The pain is often worse after periods of inactivity and improves with movement and exercise. As the condition progresses, the spine may become more rigid, leading to a stooped posture.

Diagnosing Spondylosis and Spondylitis

To diagnose spondylosis, your doctor will typically start with a physical exam and review of your medical history. They may ask about your symptoms and perform a variety of motion tests. They’ll also check for any abnormalities in your spine. In some cases, imaging tests may be ordered to get an in-depth look at the affected area.

Diagnosing spondylitis is more challenging, since the symptoms are similar to other conditions. Your healthcare provider may perform a physical examination and order imaging tests to rule out other causes of your symptoms.

A blood test may also be done to check for markers of inflammation, like the presence of the HLA-B27 gene. This gene is associated with an increased risk of developing spondylitis.

Spondylitis and Spondylosis Treatment Options

The treatment options for spondylosis vs. spondylitis vary depending on the severity of the symptoms. For mild cases, conservative treatments may be sufficient to manage the pain and improve mobility. These can include over-the-counter pain relievers, like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and exercises to strengthen the muscles supporting the spine.

In more severe cases, your healthcare provider may recommend prescription medications to help manage the pain and reduce inflammation. These may include stronger NSAIDs or corticosteroids. Physical therapy can also be beneficial for both conditions. It can help to improve flexibility, strengthen the muscles, and alleviate pain.

Surgery is typically considered a last resort for both spondylosis and spondylitis. However, it may be recommended if conservative treatments have not provided sufficient relief, or if there is a significant loss of function in the affected area.

Surgical options for spondylosis may include removing bone spurs, fusing the affected vertebrae, or replacing damaged discs. In cases of severe spondylitis, surgery may be done to correct spinal deformities or relieve pressure on the nerves.

Managing Spondylosis and Spondylitis

In addition to medical treatments, making certain lifestyle changes can help to manage the symptoms of spondylosis and spondylitis. Maintaining a healthy weight is important to reduce stress on the spine.

Regular exercise, such as walking, swimming, or yoga, can help improve endurance. It’ll also enhance flexibility and overall well-being. It’s essential to consult with your doctor to determine the best exercises for your specific condition.

Good posture is another key factor in managing spondylosis and spondylitis. Avoid slouching or sitting for long periods without taking breaks to stretch and move around.

Stretching exercises can help to alleviate stiffness and improve range of motion. On the contrary, strengthening exercises will support the spine and reduce pain. Yoga, in particular, is beneficial for individuals with spondylosis and spondylitis. The gentle movements and stretching improve flexibility and reduce pain.

Using ergonomic furniture and supports, like lumbar rolls or cushions, can help to maintain proper spinal alignment. Also, quitting smoking is beneficial. Smoking increases inflammation and decreases blood flow, which can worsen symptoms.

These management techniques are effective. However, it’s vital to work with a qualified instructor who is familiar with these conditions and can modify poses to accommodate your needs.

Understanding the Contrasts Between Spondylosis vs. Spondylitis

Knowing the differences between spondylosis vs. spondylitis is essential to finding effective relief from back pain. While they both involve the spine, the underlying causes and treatments differ. No matter which condition you have, we can help.

At New York City Spine, we have the expertise to provide a high level of care. Our board-certified surgeon, Dr. Frazier, has been highlighted by New York Times Magazine several times.

So, if you’re ready to feel better, call 212-506-0232, or contact us online. We look forward to treating you.

At New York City Spine Surgery, our standard for excellent care means treating you as a whole person, and not just another spine disorder on a chart.

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