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  • Writer's pictureDr. Yako Merogi

Your guide to Spondyl-related conditions

Spondyl this and spondyl that… Spondylosis, Spondylolysis, Spondylitis, Spondylolisthesis, Spondyloarthropathy… What is this word spondyl? Whatever it means, it sounds a bit scary, particularly since you already know that you're in pain! But knowledge is power so let’s see if we can help you understand what it means.

Like so many medical terms, it comes from Greek. Spondyl just means vertebrae. So, all these words simply relate to the spine. But you probably already knew that since that’s where you’re experiencing pain! Taking care of backs is at the core of what we do so if you’re suffering from any of the “spondyl” conditions, chiropractic care may help.

Spondylosis and Spondylolysis – What’s the Difference

Spondylosis and spondylolysis sound so similar you might confuse the two. (The word ending osis by the way just indicates a state of disease.) But Spondylosis is a general term. It describes general degeneration of the spine, usually caused by age-related arthritis or perhaps a degenerative disc disease. Spondylolysis refers to a specific crack or fracture somewhere in the spine. These spinal defects can happen anywhere but are most common in the lumbar spine. They’re often caused by repeated stress from harmful movements. In both cases chiropractic care may help. Treatments will vary between patients as the root cause of these conditions may vary, but care may involve massage, ultrasound, prescribed exercises, or prescribed rest from certain movements and of course chiropractic manipulation to align the spine. Such treatments may help you manage the pain of the condition, get you moving well and, crucially, prevent further deterioration.

Spondylitis, Spondylolisthesis & Spondyloarthropathy

But what about these other spondyl words? Let’s think about those Ancient Greek word endings again. Itis indicates the disease involves inflammation (think tonsilitis or appendicitis). Olisthesis is Ancient Greek for slippage while arthropathy just means a disease of a joint. Pathy from the Greek patheia, which means suffering, and Arthro (pertaining to the joints) from the Greek word Arthon which means, well, joint, but has come to mean arthritic pain today. So logically spondylitis must mean inflammation of the vertebrae, Spondylolisthesis refers to slipped vertebrae and spondyloarthropathy describes a rheumatoid condition (arthritis) affecting the spine. It turns out the names have been well-chosen as that pretty much sums it up, except that, while spondyloarthropathy most commonly affects the spine and sacroiliac joint (hence the name) it can also affect arms and legs, and even organs. And spondyloarthropathy and spondylitis describe the same six rheumatoid conditions.

How can chiropractic care help?

The type of care you need depends on the condition you have. Your chiropractor can help you manage pain and advise you on exercises for rehabilitation. Your chiropractor will assess your back as a whole and if they discover (or you already know) that you’re suffering from spondylolisthesis they will address the spinal joints above and below the slipped vertebra, bringing improved mobility and pain relief.

What does treatment look like?

They may perform a traditional chiropractic manipulation or use a flexion-distraction technique (sort of a slow pumping action). These adjustments to the spine may release pressure on the nerves and bring pain relief. However, If you’ve been diagnosed with spondyloarthropathy, or if your chiropractor or physician suggest you may have this, you should also seek treatment from a rheumatoid specialist. Rheumatoid conditions can be systemic and progressive, so care from an expert in the field of autoimmune conditions is essential. Your chiropractor may still be able to help you in managing associated pain and in staying active. If you have an advanced case of one type of spondylitis, Ankylosing Spondylitis (vertebrae that have fused together) then we would not advise traditional chiropractic manipulation. It is essential that you inform your chiropractor if this is the case so that they can work on alternative pain management protocols with you.

So now you know what all these medical terms beginning with “spondyl" mean. Spines are at the core of our work so if you have any questions or concerns about your spine book an appointment with us at Body Cure today. Call us on 905.265.0006 or email us to make an appointment. We may be able to help you manage your pain, restore mobility, and advise you on next steps.

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