If you’re experiencing back pain, you may be wondering—do I have spondylosis or spondylitis? These two conditions affect the spine but have key differences in their underlying causes and symptoms. Read on for a comprehensive overview of spondylosis vs. spondylitis.
What is Spondylosis?
- Bone spurs – additional bits of bone that grow along the spine
- Degenerative disc disease – breakdown of the intervertebral discs between vertebrae
- Spinal stenosis – narrowing of the spinal canal
In essence, spondylosis stems from chronic, gradual degeneration of tissues in the spine.
The most common spondylosis symptoms include:
- Lower back pain or neck pain that worsens with activity
- Stiffness in the back or neck
- Numbness/tingling radiating into arms or legs
Because spondylosis develops slowly over time, symptoms tend to come on gradually as well. Pain often starts mild initially but grows more severe.
While aging itself directly contributes to spondylosis, other factors can accelerate it, such as:
- Repetitive strain from occupation – e.g. heavy lifting
- Injury – fractures and disc injuries
Typical spondylosis treatment aims to alleviate pain and improve function. Options include:
- NSAIDs – non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen
- Physical therapy – stretches and exercises to improve flexibility
- Chiropractic manipulation
- Epidural steroid injections
- Surgery – for cases unresponsive to conservative treatment
What is Spondylitis?
Spondylitis refers to inflammation affecting the joints between vertebrae in the spine. Several subtypes exist, with ankylosing spondylitis being most common.
With spondylitis, the body’s immune system attacks the spine, triggering inflammation. This can eventually cause vertebrae to fuse.
Symptoms of spondylitis include:
- Low back pain/stiffness – typically worse in the morning
- Pain at sites other than the spine – eyes, bowel, joints
- Limited range of motion
Spondylitis pain and stiffness tend to be more severe at rest. Symptoms start earlier in life than spondylosis as well—often between ages 20-40.
- Genetics – presence of HLA-B27 gene
- Stimulation of the immune system – from infection or gut bacteria
Essentially, those with a genetic predisposition might develop spondylitis after exposure to inflammatory triggers.
Treatment focuses on reducing inflammation to limit spinal damage. Options consist of:
- TNF-alpha inhibitors – powerful biologics/DMARDs to block inflammation
- Physical therapy
- Surgery – in cases of severe joint damage
Early, aggressive treatment is best to help prevent permanent spinal fusion.
Spondylosis vs Spondylitis Chart
|Gradual wear and tear
|Develops over time with aging
|Onsets earlier – ages 20 to 40
|Stiffness after rest or sleep
|Morning stiffness over 1+ hours
|Mild to moderate chronic pain
|Severe or episodic acute pain
|Numbness/tingling into limbs
|Fatigue and eye/bowel involvement
|Degeneration seen on X-ray
|Fusion visible on X-ray in late disease
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Have Both Spondylosis and Spondylitis?
Yes, it’s possible to have overlapping features of both spondylosis and spondylitis. Many with chronic spondylitis also develop age-related spondylosis over time.
Is Spondylitis Worse Than Spondylosis?
Spondylitis pain tends to be more severe with higher risk of spinal fusion if not treated promptly. However, both cause significant pain and loss of function.
Can Spondylosis Turn Into Spondylitis?
No, spondylosis cannot turn into spondylitis since the underlying mechanisms differ. Spondylosis stems from aging/injury while spondylitis is an immune-mediated inflammatory disease.
Embark on the path to a healthier spine by understanding the nuances of spondylosis versus spondylitis. At Innovative Healthcare Centers, our expert team is dedicated to providing comprehensive assessments and personalized treatment plans to address these conditions. Don’t let spinal discomfort disrupt your life. Whether you’re grappling with spondylosis or spondylitis, we are here to guide you towards relief and improved mobility.
Schedule a consultation with us today and let our skilled physical therapists tailor a program that suits your unique needs.