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Spondylosis and Osteo-Arthritis

Spondylosis is a general term for any changes in the spine caused by wear and tear. Spondylosis is not really a diagnosis, but refers to the changes that occur, often with age, to the discs and vertebrae of the back.

The inter vertebral discs act as a springy cushion. They are made up of an outer casing called the annulus fibrosus, and an inner softer jelly-like substance, the nucleus. As we age several changes occur, the nucleus shrinks and becomes tougher and more fibrous. The bony surfaces above and below the disc, called the vertebral end plates, thicken and spread so that a rim of bone develops around the edge of the disc. These changes can also affect the facet joints that lie behind and on either side of the vertebral canal. The changes in these joints are also known as osteoarthritis. Spondylosis and osteo-arthritis usually occur together. Extra bony growths can grow on the vertebrae and may press on the nerve roots causing pain and irritation. These extra bony growths are called osteophytes.

A sudden attack

There are a wide range of treatment options. Initially, if in a sudden (acute) attack or relapse, ice packs, painkillers, gentle exercise and relaxation are important to try and switch off the pain. If symptoms persist then an assessment by your GP or physical therapist e.g. physiotherapist, chiropractor , magnetic therapist or osteopath may be required.

Looking after yourself and making some life-style changes is also of great importance. Good posture whilst standing, sitting, working at a computer, driving, moving things and even sleeping are essential, as these are all potential high risk areas for backs. Learning to relax, listening to music or possibly a relaxation tape might be helpful.

Back strengthening exercises can also ease the pain of muscles that are in spasm, but it is important to get good advice from a qualified physical therapist (as mentioned above).

If pain continues for more than a few weeks, if it worsens, or your symptoms change in any way, then a specialist opinion may be necessary.

If the pain is not worsening then you will probably be better off doing stretching and strengthening exercises to maintain the muscles of the back.

Exercise for a better back

Spinal Mobility Exercises - perform daily

These exercises should be carried out slowly and deliberately. If you have pain when you perform any of them, limit the particular exercise movement so that you are comfortable. If you feel pain when you start any movement, then it should not be carried out.

Starting position for all exercises is on all fours. Hands ,should be placed shoulder width apart, arms and thighs vertical. Use an exercise mat if you have one.

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