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Patient Information Handouts
Spondylosis Osteo-Arthritis – Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery (MIS)

Spondylosis (Osteo-Arthritis)

Spinal arthritis is relatively common and is most likely to occur in people over age fifty. It represents an ongoing, degenerative process in the spine, and may be associated with a number of other degenerative spinal conditions. In particular, osteoarthritis is associated with degenerative discs in the spine. Degenerative discs and osteoarthritis often occur hand in hand because the disc and facet joints (the joints in the back affected by osteoarthritis) are both part of the same three-joint complex. It is thought that degenerating discs can place undue stress on the facet joints, thus over time leading to degeneration and formation of osteoarthritis in the facet joints (also called zygapophyseal joints). This may be why the two degenerative conditions are so often seen together. If the disc as well as the facet joints become painful as a result of degenerative changes in the spine, the condition is often called spondylosis. However, degenerative disc disease and osteoarthritis are different conditions and can occur separately: one can have degenerative discs without any facet osteoarthritis; or one can have facet osteoarthritis without degenerative discs.

Other anatomical markers of disc degeneration that often occur in conjunction with osteoarthritis—and may or may not cause pain or other symptoms—include:

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  • Synovial cysts. Over time, degeneration of the facet joints in the lower back can result in formation of a fluid-filled sac called a synovial cyst. These cysts are benign in and of themselves, but if they put pressure on the spinal canal they can cause symptoms of spinal stenosis.
  • Bone spurs (osteophytes). It is thought (though not proven) that over time the combination of disc degeneration and small amounts of instability can cause bone spurs to form. If the bone spurs impinge on the spinal canal, this can cause pain and symptoms from spinal stenosis. It should be noted that bone spurs are simply radiographic markers of degeneration, and are not in and of themselves painful (unless they pinch a nerve root).


An abnormal spinal anatomy may result in the following conditions:




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