Spondylosis refers to the degeneration of the bones of the spine (vertebrae) or the disks or joints between those bones. The degeneration can occur in one or more areas of the spine, such as the neck (cervical spondylosis), lower back (lumbar spondylosis) or middle back (thoracic spondylosis).
The wear and tear associated with spondylosis can result in compression of one or more of the nerve roots, and in severe cases, can involve the spinal cord as well. Individuals who are active at work or in sports, are obese, have severe arthritis or have had a past neck or spine injury are more likely to experience spondylosis. The disorder is common among most individuals over age 60.
Symptoms often develop over time but may begin or worsen suddenly. Common symptoms include stiffness, numbness or abnormal sensations in the back, and headaches, while less common, more severe symptoms may include loss of balance or loss of control of bladder or bowels. More severe symptoms are present if the degeneration results in pressure on the spinal cord.
Doctors may order a range of tests to examine the diagnosis and cause of spondylosis, including a physical exam, X-ray, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or electromyography and nerve conduction velocity test to assess nerve root function.
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