Spondylosis refers to the conditions that occur as a result of spinal degeneration. Think of it as an umbrella term describing the symptoms of these conditions.

We recently added the Spondylosis Video to our Spine-health Video Library to help you visualize and understand this condition.

Video highlights

Spondylosis can describe degeneration in the following areas:

Spinal osteoarthritis causes most symptoms of spondylosis, but there can be other causes as well.

See Spondylosis: What It Actually Means

Small joints located between and behind adjacent vertebrae, called facet joints, are highlighted here in purple. They are the part of the spine that are most often affected by spinal osteoarthritis.

See Facet Joint Osteoarthritis

If the cartilage between the facet joints breaks down, the bones grind against each other and cause friction and loss of mobility.

See Facet Joint Disorders and Back Pain

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Over time, the friction may lead to the development of osteophytes, or bone spurs. These bone spurs may press on surrounding spinal nerves, muscles, or ligaments, and cause pain.

See Bone Spurs (Osteophytes) and Back Pain

Problems with the facet joints can lead to spondylolisthesis in the lower back.

See Degenerative Spondylolisthesis

This image shows spondylolisthesis, in which the vertebrae above is slipping over the one beneath.

See Spondylolysis and Spondylolisthesis


This image shows how the slippage described above can cause vertebrae to press on and irritate the sciatic nerve, sending pain down the buttocks and legs. These symptoms are referred to as sciatica.

See What You Need to Know About Sciatica

Another cause of spondylosis is spinal stenosis, pictured here. Spinal stenosis occurs when a spinal nerve root becomes compressed as it passes through an opening in the side of each vertebra, called a foramen.

See What is Spinal Stenosis?

Spondylosis may also refer to degenerative changes in the disc called degenerative disc disease. This image shows how a spinal disc begins to thin, lose moisture, and break down. In this case, pain may result from the disc itself, or from the biomechanics of the spine.

See What Is Degenerative Disc Disease?

Spondylosis is not a medical diagnosis. Instead, it is a term that is used to describe the degenerative changes which can occur in your spine.

Learn more:

Spondylosis: What It Actually Means

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