Spondylosis in the cervical spine is likely to cause stiffness in the morning, or a limited range of motion when first getting out of bed. This morning stiffness is one way in which doctors may differentiate the condition from other problems, such as rheumatoid arthritis. The pain is often intermittent, with periods of acute pain, dull aching, and then relief. Radicular pain in the shoulders, arms, hands, and fingers can indicate a pinched nerve in the neck due to spondylosis. Corresponding weakness may also occur, and the muscles in the upper limbs may atrophy (waste) as a result of long-term nerve dysfunction leading to a visible disparity in grip strength and even appearance of the arms in some patients.
Those with cervical spondylosis may also find that they suffer from more headaches, particularly in the back of the head, loss of balance, and, in very rare cases, even difficulty swallowing due to spinal cord compression. These symptoms may be misdiagnosed as something other than spondylosis and patients are encouraged to keep a symptom diary in order to make sure that seemingly unrelated problems are not accidentally overlooked.
Thoracic Spondylosis Symptoms
Those with thoracic spondylosis will usually experience pain in the upper and/or mid-sections of the back and find that this pain is frequently exacerbated when bending or extending the body. As with cervical spondylosis, thoracic spondylosis is usually felt as stiffness in the morning upon first waking and getting out of bed. Lower back stiffness in the morning could be a sign of lumbar spondylosis, especially when accompanied by intermittent lower back pain and sciatica. The varying degrees of pain and discomfort felt by patients with sciatica are often relieved when bending forwards (in a bike-riding position) and can often be relieved using interspinous spacer devices in minimally invasive back surgery.
Lumbar Spondylosis Pain
Patients often find that lumbar spondylosis pain is worse when walking or sitting for long periods and that lying down can relieve the pain. Unfortunately, sciatica responds best to regular exercise, which many patients feel discouraged from doing because of their pain. Working with a physical therapist to devise an appropriate regime can help in this regard. Tenderness and numbness of the low back is also felt by many patients with lumbar spondylosis, and this can extend down the legs and into the feet. In extreme cases of severe spinal cord compression the patient may lose bowel and/or bladder control, and will usually require immediate back surgery to relieve the compression.
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