Alex Simotas, MD

Hospital for Special Surgery
Board Certified Physiatrist
Specializing In Spine & Sports Medicine

Home > Conditions > Spine > Spondylosis


Spondylosis is the name given to describe the process of age related degeneration of the spine. This process is reviewed in detail in the article titled “the significance of spinal degeneration and how it relates to pain”, in our leaning center. Here is a brief summary.


Spondylosis can occur at any level of the spine where joint spaces exist between the vertebra, cervical, lumbar, or thoracic. It does not occur in the sacrum, where bones are fused together at birth. Changes of spondylosis can progress with age, but at variable and unpredictable rates.

Cause and Progression of Degeneration

The process begins with changes in cells of the spine. The exact location varies and can depend on other factors, such as alignment of the spine. With age, changes to cells within the spinal discs cause them to begin to dry out, lose their elasticity and collapse. A similar process begins in the spinal facet joints located in back of the vertebra.

Causes of Pain

Spondylosis does not necessarily cause pain, if it did we would all be getting more and more back pain everyday of our lives until it was unbearable to live! Specific problems can occur. A spinal disc herniation can occur leading to a painful compression of a spinal nerve. Bone growths called spurs form as the spinal disc, ligaments, and facet joints wear down. Slight shifts in alignment (called spondylolisthesis) and excess bone growth can reduce the space which the nerve roots travel. Compression of the nerve roots or the spinal cord can lead to pain and more severe cases loss of nerve function causing numbness and weakness.