Spondylosis vs Spondylitis

A Comprehensive Guide to Spondylosis vs Spondylitis!

Spondylosis vs Spondylitis! These two terms are often heard in discussions about spinal conditions, which are confusing due to their similar-sounding names. While both conditions affect the spine, they are distinct and involve different aspects of spinal health. Understanding the differences between spondylosis and spondylitis is crucial for accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. This article will delve into the intricacies of these conditions, exploring their definitions, causes, symptoms, and available management options. By clarifying the distinctions between spondylosis and spondylitis, we aim to empower individuals to confidently navigate their spinal health and make informed decisions regarding their well-being.

Table of Contents


Spondylosis is a degenerative spine disease that affects the joints and discs between the vertebrae. It is a prevalent condition that usually develops with age and is frequently connected with wear and tear on the spine as we age. Spondylosis can also be referred to as degenerative disc disease or spinal osteoarthritis.

The spine is made up of vertebrae, which are stacked on top of each other and divided by intervertebral discs. These discs serve as shock absorbers and allow for spine flexibility and movement. The discs in the spine can deteriorate and lose their capacity to function correctly as they age and are subjected to repeated stress. Spondylosis can develop as a result of this degeneration.

Causes and Risk Factors

Here are some of the most common reasons for spondylosis and things that can make it worse:


Getting older is one of the main things that put you at risk for spondylosis. As we age, the spinal discs lose water and become less flexible. This makes them more likely to break down. Spondylosis can happen when the spine has been used and abused over time.


Spondylosis can be caused by things that are in your genes. Some people may have a tendency to get spinal degeneration, which makes them more likely to get spondylosis at a younger age.

Spinal injuries

Spondylosis is more likely to happen after a traumatic injury to the spine, like a break or a bulging disc. These injuries can change the spine’s usual shape, speeding up the aging process over time.

Repetitive stress and poor posture

Spondylosis can be caused by jobs or hobbies that involve doing the same thing repeatedly or spending long periods with bad posture. Heavy lifting, bending, or turning can put too much stress on the spine and speed up the process of degeneration.


Extra weight puts more stress on the spine, which makes spondylosis more likely. More stress on the discs and joints of the spine can speed up the arthritic changes.

Sedentary lifestyle

If you don’t work out or do other physical activities daily, the muscles supporting your spine can weaken. This can lead to bad posture. Weak muscles and insufficient spine support can cause spondylosis.


Spondylosis is more likely to happen to people who smoke. It can slow blood flow to the spinal discs, making it harder for them to get the necessary nutrients and oxygen and speeding up their degeneration.

Other medical conditions

Spondylosis is more likely to happen if you have rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, or a problem with your metabolism. These situations cause the body to be constantly inflamed, speeding up the wear and tear on the joints and discs in the spine.


Spondylosis, also called osteoarthritis of the spine, can cause several different symptoms that can be different for each person. Symptoms can vary depending on where and how bad the arthritic changes in the spine are. Here are some of the most common signs of spondylosis:


Pain is one of the most common signs of spondylosis. It can happen in the neck (cervical spondylosis), the lower back (lumbar spondylosis), or both. The pain is usually described as a dull ache that can worsen when you move or stay still for a long time. Pain can range from mild to serious and may last longer.


People with spondylosis often feel stiffness in the damaged part of their spine. The stiffness can make it hard to do normal things and may worsen in the morning or after a long rest. Moving the area may help ease the pain for a little while.

Less range of motion

The joints of the spine that are damaged by spondylosis may have less range of motion. Because of this, it can be hard to fully bend, twist, or turn the neck or back. Less movement can make it hard to drive, look over your shoulder, or bend down to pick up things.

Nerve-related symptoms

In some cases, spondylosis can pressure or hurt nerves close by, which can cause other symptoms. These can include pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness in the arms or legs that comes from the neck or back. Depending on where the progressive changes are, different nerves will be hurt.


Cervical spondylosis, which affects the neck, can sometimes lead to headaches. The headaches can start at the base of the head or spread to the temples or forehead. Most of the time, they are dull and may come with neck pain or stiffness.

Muscle spasms

Muscle spasms can happen in the muscles around an area where spondylosis is present. These spasms can cause rapid, uncontrollable tightening or contracting of the muscles, which can be uncomfortable or painful.

Loss of control over the bladder or bowels

In rare cases, advanced spondylosis can cause serious spinal cord compression, leading to loss of control over the bladder or bowels. This is a very bad sign that needs medical help right away.

Treatment and Diagnosis

A healthcare expert will normally do a comprehensive physical examination and study the individual’s medical history to diagnose spondylosis. Imaging studies, such as X-rays, CT scans, or MRI scans, may be conducted to determine the amount of degeneration and rule out other possible explanations of the symptoms.

While there is no cure for spondylosis, treatment focuses on symptom management and functional improvement. Treatment options could include:


OTC pain medications, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), and muscle relaxants can help reduce discomfort and inflammation.

Physical therapy

Specific exercises and stretches given by a physical therapist can help to strengthen surrounding muscles, increase flexibility, and relieve discomfort.

Heat or cold therapy

Applying heat or cold packs to the affected area might help relieve pain and reduce inflammation.

Lifestyle modifications

  • Maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Practicing excellent posture.
  • Avoiding activities that aggravate symptoms.
  • Incorporating regular exercise into daily routines can help with spondylosis management.

Assistive devices

Braces or supportive devices may be recommended in some circumstances to promote stability and relieve pressure on the spine.


To reduce inflammation and relieve temporary pain, corticosteroid injections or nerve blocks may be used.


When conservative therapy fails to provide relief, surgical intervention is usually considered a last choice. Depending on the exact problem and the demands of the individual, surgical treatments may include spinal fusion or disc replacement.


Spondylitis is a term used to describe inflammation of the spine. It is a group of persistent, inflammatory diseases that mostly affect the spine and the structures around it. Spondylitis can cause pain, stiffness, and restricted mobility, affecting a person’s daily life and quality of life. 

Types of Spondylitis

Spondylitis refers to spine inflammation and can encompass various chronic inflammatory conditions. Here are some of the common types of spondylitis:

Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS)

Ankylosing spondylitis is the most well-known and prevalent form. It primarily affects the sacroiliac joints, where the spine connects to the pelvis and the spine. AS causes pain, inflammation, and stiffness in the affected joints and can lead to the fusion of the vertebrae over time, resulting in a rigid spine.

Psoriatic Spondylitis

Psoriatic spondylitis is associated with psoriasis, a chronic skin condition characterized by scaly patches, red. It can affect both the skin and the joints, including the spine. Psoriatic spondylitis causes inflammation, pain, and stiffness in the spine and can lead to joint damage and fusion in severe cases.

Enteropathic Spondylitis

Enteropathic spondylitis is linked to inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Inflammation in the bowel can also affect the spine, leading to symptoms such as back pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility.

Reactive Arthritis

It is also referred to as Reiter’s syndrome, is a form of spondylitis that develops following an infection in another part of the body, typically the gastrointestinal or genitourinary systems. It can cause joint inflammation, including in the spine, and other symptoms, such as joint pain, swelling, and eye inflammation.

Undifferentiated Spondyloarthritis (SpA)

Undifferentiated spondyloarthritis refers to a category where the symptoms and features do not fit into a specific subtype. It involves inflammatory arthritis of the spine and/or peripheral joints and other related symptoms such as enthesitis (inflammation where tendons and ligaments attach to bones) and dactylitis (inflammation of an entire finger or toe).

Causes and Risk Factors

Spondylitis is a spine disease, but no one knows exactly what causes it. But it has grown because of several things. Here are some common reasons for spondylitis and things that can make it worse:


Some people are more likely to get spondylitis because of their genes. People with spondylitis are likelier to have certain genetic markers, like the HLA-B27 gene. If someone in your family has spondylitis, you are more likely to get it yourself.

Autoimmune Factors

It is thought that spondylitis has an autoimmune component, in which the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissues in the spine, causing inflammation. We still don’t know what caused this autoimmune reaction.


An illness in another part of the body can cause spondylitis, like reactive arthritis. In people prone to it, spondylitis can be caused by bacterial or viral illnesses, especially those that affect the digestive or urinary systems.


Men are more likely than women to have spondylitis. This difference between men and women is unknown, but it may be related to hormones and genes.


Most people get spondylitis when they are young adults, usually between 17 and 45. But it can happen at any age.

Environmental Factors

Some environmental factors, like exposure to certain bacteria or toxins, could cause spondylitis in people genetically prone to it. But the exact environmental causes have not been found.


People who smoke are more likely to get spondylitis, especially ankylosing spondylitis. People with a family history of spondylitis are more likely to get the illness or have more severe symptoms if they smoke.

Other Underlying Conditions

Some underlying conditions, like inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis) or psoriasis, make you more likely to get spondylitis. These problems often happen simultaneously as spondylitis or have the same genetic or immune system problems.

Signs and Symptoms

Spondylitis, also known as spinal inflammation, can cause various signs and symptoms that vary from person to person. The specific symptoms experienced may depend on the type of spondylitis and the areas of the spine affected. Here are some common signs and symptoms associated with spondylitis:

Pain and Stiffness

Persistent pain and stiffness are hallmark symptoms of spondylitis. The pain is typically felt in the affected area of the spine and can range from mild to severe. It may worsen with prolonged rest or inactivity and improve with movement. The stiffness is often most pronounced in the morning or after periods of inactivity and may improve with activity.

Limited Range of Motion

Spondylitis can cause a decreased range of motion in the spine and affected joints. This can result in difficulty bending, twisting, or turning the spine. The reduced mobility may impact daily activities, such as driving, reaching, or bending down.

Back and Neck Pain

Spondylitis commonly causes pain in the back or neck region, depending on the site of inflammation. The pain may be localized or radiate to other areas, such as the shoulders, buttocks, or hips.


Many individuals with spondylitis experience fatigue, which can be attributed to chronic inflammation, disrupted sleep due to pain, or the body’s immune response. Fatigue can impact daily activities and quality of life.

Morning Stiffness

Stiffness and pain are often more pronounced in the morning or after rest periods. Morning stiffness can last several hours and gradually improve with movement and activity.

Difficulty Breathing

In severe spondylitis affecting the rib cage or chest area, individuals may experience difficulty breathing. This can be due to restricted chest wall movement or inflammation affecting the lungs.

Joint Swelling and Tenderness

Spondylitis can cause inflammation in the joints, leading to swelling, tenderness, and warmth. This can be particularly evident in peripheral joints, such as the knees, ankles, or hips.

Eye Inflammation

Some types of spondylitis, such as ankylosing spondylitis, may involve inflammation of the eyes. This can result in redness, pain, sensitivity to light (photophobia), or blurred vision.


It is inflammation at the sites where tendons or ligaments attach to the bones. It can cause pain, swelling, and tenderness at these attachment points, typically in the heels, elbows, or other affected joints.

Systemic Symptoms

In certain forms of spondylitis, individuals may experience systemic symptoms such as fever, weight loss, or general malaise. These symptoms are more commonly seen in severe or advanced cases.

Diagnosis of Spondylitis

Diagnosing spondylitis typically involves a combination of medical history assessment, physical examination, imaging studies, and laboratory tests. Since there are different types of spondylitis, the diagnostic process may vary. Here are some common methods used to diagnose spondylitis:

Medical History and Physical Examination

The doctor will start by getting a full medical history, including a list of symptoms, how long they have been happening, and anything else that might be related. They will also do a physical test to check the range of motion, swollen joints, tenderness, and anything else important.

Imaging Studies

Imaging tests are crucial for evaluating the spine and detecting abnormalities. X-rays can show changes in the spine, such as bone spurs, joint damage, or fusion. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) provides more detailed images and can reveal inflammation, structural changes, and involvement of soft tissues. Computed Tomography (CT) scans may be used to visualize the spine’s bony structures in more detail.

Laboratory Tests

Blood tests are commonly used to assist in the diagnosis of spondylitis. These tests can help identify specific markers or indicators of inflammation. The presence of the HLA-B27 gene, although not diagnostic on its own, can help support the diagnosis of certain types of spondylitis, such as ankylosing spondylitis.

Additional Tests

In some cases, additional tests may be performed to help confirm the diagnosis or rule out other conditions. These tests can include joint fluid analysis (arthrocentesis) to assess for signs of inflammation, imaging of other affected joints or organs, or specialized tests for specific types of spondylitis.

Rheumatologist Consultation

Since spondylitis falls under the domain of rheumatology, a rheumatologist may be involved in the diagnostic process. Rheumatologists specialize in diagnosing and treating inflammatory conditions affecting the joints and connective tissues, including spondylitis.

Treatment Options

When treating spondylitis, the goal is to ease the symptoms, slow the disease’s development, and improve the person’s quality of life. Medication, physical treatment, making changes to your lifestyle, surgery, and complementary and alternative therapies are all possible ways to treat the condition.


Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are often given to people with spondylitis to lessen pain and inflammation. In more serious cases, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and biological agents may shut down the immune system and treat the inflammation at its source.

Physical Therapy

Physical treatment is one of the most important ways to treat spondylitis because it helps improve flexibility, strength, and posture. A physical therapist can help people find the right exercises and stretches, focusing on strengthening the muscles that support the spine, making joints more mobile, and improving general physical health.

Lifestyle Modifications

Spondylitis can be easier to deal with, and its effects can be lessened by changing howay you live. Keeping a healthy weight, using good posture, regular exercise, and staying away from things that worsen symptoms can all help improve spine health and lower pain.

Surgical Interventions

Surgery may be an option in serious cases of spondylitis that don’t get better with non-surgical treatments. Some of these treatments are surgeries to replace joints, like the hip or knee, or spinal fusion surgeries to stabilize the spine.

Complementary and Alternative Therapies

Some people with spondylitis find that complementary and alternative treatments help them deal with their symptoms. These include acupuncture, chiropractic care, massage therapy, and mind-body methods like yoga or meditation. It is important to talk to doctors and nurses about these choices and ensure they are safe and fit into the treatment plan.

Managing Spondylitis

Spondylitis must be treated with a complete plan beyond medical treatments. It includes ways to take care of yourself, like living a healthy lifestyle, dealing with worry, and protecting the spine while doing everyday things. Joining support groups and reaching out for emotional help can help people deal with the difficulties of living with a chronic illness.

Complications and Outlook

Spondylitis can lead to problems such as fusing the spine, losing movement, and having a lower quality of life. But catching it early, getting the right treatment, and taking care of it proactively can help reduce these problems and improve the long-term picture. Self-care strategies and regular follow-ups with healthcare professionals are important for getting the best results and keeping your general health in good shape.

Spondylosis vs Spondylitis: Five Differences Between Them

Spondylosis and spondylitis are two distinct conditions that affect the spine, although they share similarities in terms of their names and involvement of spinal structures. Here are five key differences between spondylosis and spondylitis:

Nature of Condition

Spondylosis is a degenerative condition that primarily involves the wear and tear of the spinal discs, leading to age-related changes in the spine. It is a non-inflammatory condition. On the other hand, spondylitis refers to inflammation of the spinal structures, including the vertebrae, joints, ligaments, and surrounding tissues. It is an inflammatory condition.

Underlying Cause

Spondylosis is primarily caused by the natural aging process and the gradual degeneration of the spinal discs. It can also be influenced by factors such as repetitive stress, poor posture, or injury. In contrast, spondylitis is often associated with autoimmune factors, genetic predisposition, or infections triggering an inflammatory response in the spine.


Spondylosis and spondylitis differ due to their distinct underlying mechanisms. Spondylosis commonly manifests as localized pain, stiffness, and decreased range of motion in the affected spine area. Occasional muscle spasms may accompany it. Spondylitis, an inflammatory condition, presents more widespread symptoms such as persistent pain, swelling, joint stiffness, and systemic features like fatigue, fever, and weight loss. Additionally, certain types of spondylitis may have specific symptoms related to associated conditions like psoriasis or inflammatory bowel disease.

Progression and Prognosis

Spondylosis progresses gradually over time as a natural consequence of aging and degeneration. While the symptoms can worsen, they remain stable without causing severe complications. Spondylitis, on the other hand, can vary in severity and progression. Some forms, like ankylosing spondylitis, tend to progress and cause spinal fusion, leading to a more rigid spine and reduced mobility. The prognosis of spondylitis depends on the specific subtype, disease management, and individual factors.

Treatment Approach

The treatment approaches for spondylosis, and spondylitis differ due to their underlying causes. Spondylosis management focuses on relieving symptoms, improving function, and preventing further degeneration through non-surgical methods such as physical therapy, pain management techniques, posture correction, and lifestyle modifications. In contrast, spondylitis management involves addressing the inflammatory component through medications, physical therapy, exercise, and sometimes, specific treatments targeting the underlying autoimmune or infectious cause.

Spondylosis vs Spondylitis: Five Similarities Between Them

While spondylosis and spondylitis are distinct conditions with different underlying causes and characteristics, they share some similarities. Here are five similarities between spondylosis and spondylitis:

Spinal Involvement

Both spondylosis and spondylitis affect the spinal structures. They can involve the vertebrae, spinal discs, joints, ligaments, and surrounding tissues. The symptoms of both conditions often originate from the affected spinal area.

Pain and Stiffness

Both spondylosis and spondylitis can cause pain and stiffness in the spine. However, the nature and severity of the pain may vary. In spondylosis, pain is typically associated with degenerative changes, while spondylitis involves inflammation that contributes to pain and stiffness.

Impact on Range of Motion

Both conditions can affect the spine’s range of motion. Spondylosis may lead to a decreased range of motion due to the wear and tear of spinal discs or the development of bone spurs. Similarly, spondylitis can restrict movement due to inflammation and joint involvement, leading to stiffness and reduced flexibility.

Diagnostic Methods

The diagnostic approaches for spondylosis and spondylitis often involve similar methods. Both conditions can be evaluated through medical history assessment, physical examination, imaging studies (such as X-rays, MRI, or CT scans), and laboratory tests. These diagnostic tools help healthcare professionals determine the presence and extent of spinal abnormalities.

Management Strategies

While the specific treatment approaches may differ, both spondylosis and spondylitis can benefit from certain management strategies. These may include physical therapy exercises to improve posture, strengthen the muscles supporting the spine, and enhance flexibility. Pain management techniques, such as medication, heat or cold therapy, and lifestyle modifications, can also be helpful for both conditions. Both conditions may require surgical intervention in some cases, although the surgical procedures may vary.

Final Words

While Spondylosis vs. Spondylitis both conditions can impact the quality of life, early diagnosis and appropriate management are crucial to minimize symptoms, preserve spinal function, and improve overall well-being. Consulting with a healthcare professional experienced in managing spinal conditions is essential for an accurate diagnosis, personalized treatment plan, and ongoing care.

Read More: Broken vs Sprained Ankle: 6 Big differences!


"Hasan", I am a physiotherapy Doctor. I have completed my B.S.c course (4 years) under Rajshahi University, Faculty of Medicine, Rajshahi. Currently I am working as a clinical physiotherapist at a renowned physiotherapy center and I am continuing my MPT (Master's of physiotherapy) degree at CRP, Savar.

View all posts by MAHMUDUL HASAN →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *