Spondylosis, or Spinal Osteoarthritis, is a degenerative disorder of the spine that affects the intervertebral discs, sometimes resulting in pain, loss of function and structural distortions.
Spondylosis is an age related disorder and is often referred to as 'wear and tear'. As we age, the cartilage which forms the discs becomes more brittle, dehydrated and narrow, which can make the spine less stable, particularly if we do not pay attention to the way in which we use our bodies. This instability can sometimes lead to the vertebrae developing bony spurs called osteophytes in an attempt to stabilise the spine, but these extra bits of bone can themselves create pain and other problems, by pressing on nerves and blood vessels. The spine can also become more stiff and rigid, particularly if we tend to hold ourselves tensely and are fixed into habit patterns that contract us, rather than lengthen the body and musculature, so our movements become less free.
The degenerative changes brought about by spondylosis may be found throughout the spine, i.e. in the cervical (neck) area of the spine, the thoracic area (the mid-back) and in the lumbar area (the lower back). The patterns of degeneration will vary from person to person and will reflect the way each person uses and mis-uses their body. The more we interfere with the way the body is designed to work, the more we lose our natural poise and this can create distortions in our structure, which will get exacerbated by the spondylosis.
The more downward compression we put onto our discs, through continually sitting in a slumped position or over-arching the back for instance, the more the discs will lose their ability to retain their fluid content, so they will not be able to fulfill their functions as shock absorbers and stabilisers between the vertebrae.
Fortunately, in Alexander Technique classes, we can learn to reduce this downward compression onto our discs and to regain the natural balance, co-ordination and alignment of the body, thereby helping to slow down the rate of degeneration and the discomfort that spondylosis can cause.