Spondylosis is a general term for age-related wear and tear affecting the joints in the spine. Also known as cervical or lumbar osteoarthritis (OA), this condition usually appears in men and women older than 40 and progresses with age.
As we age, the bones and cartilage that make up our spine gradually deteriorate, sometimes forming irregular bony outgrowths called osteophytes or bone spurs. These changes, which are characteristic of spondylosis, occur in most everyone's spine. If these changes occur in the zygapophyseal joints, it is often referred to as facet arthropathy. Many people with signs of spondylosis on X-rays manage to escape the associated symptoms, which can include pain, stiffness and muscle spasms.
At the other extreme, spondylosis may compress one or more of the spinal nerves exiting the spinal canal through the neural foramen which can cause pain, numbness, tingling or weakness- a condition called radiculitis, or radiculopathy. Bone spurs and other irregularities caused by spondylosis also may reduce the diameter of the canal that houses the spinal cord, which can result in spinal stenosis and possibly myelopathy. Radiculopathy and myelopathy can lead to permanent disability. Fortunately, most adults with spondylosis — nearly 90 percent — will not lose nerve function, even temporarily.