Indian archaeologists’ recent discovery of the fossil of a one-horned Middle Triassic reptile has spurred interest from an unusual group: spine surgeons from around the world. Though a new discovery of an animal that predates the dinosaurs is always exciting, what makes this one detailed in an article in the International Journal of Paleopathology is the fact that this particular animal exhibited signs of a spinal disease that continues to afflict people today: spondylitis.
Spondylitis is an inflammation of one or more of the vertebrae in the spine. It is different from spondylosis, which is a degenerative age-related condition, spondylitis can deteriorate the joints, leading to the vertebrae fusing together, limiting mobility and causing chronic pain. The horned reptile that was found in the Satpura Gondwana basin in Madhya Pradesh had two cervical vertebrae that were fused together, leading assistant professor of geology at Durgapur Government College Saradee Sengupta to posit that the animal suffered from the disease. He believes it is the first time that a vertebrate fossil from the Triassic period in India has been diagnosed with a disease, and it is certainly a disease that many people can empathize with.
At our cervical spine specialty practice in New Jersey, we are able to treat a form of spondylitis called “ankylosing spondylitis,” which is an autoimmune disease that is a form of arthritis in the back and spine that causes significant pain. Ankylosing spondylitis is thought to be a result of a person’s genetic history, though having suffered bacterial infections has also been related to the condition. Treatment usually consists of medications such as pain aids and immunosuppressants, hot and cold therapy, exercises, as well as physical therapy. Surgery is also sometimes used.
At our spine surgery practice, we also treat spondylosis, a form of spinal degeneration that is caused by changes in the cushioning tissue between the vertebrae, or the tendons, muscles, cartilage, and ligaments that line the facet joints and support the spine. Spondylosis is generally associated with aging, though there are different forms that the disease can take, and there are risk factors such as a history of injury, participation in high-impact sports and obesity that can make it more likely that you will have the condition. In all situations, the wearing down of cushions leads to bone-on-bone contact that leads to inflammation and the formation of bony deposits.
Spondylosis can occur in different areas of the spine, leading to four different specific diagnoses:
• Cervical spondylosis (affecting the top 7 vertebrae in the neck)
• Thoracic spondylosis (affecting the 12 vertebrae in the middle back)
• Lumbar spondylosis (affecting the 5 vertebrae in the lower back)
• Multilevel spondylosis (affecting vertebrae in more than one region of the back)
Symptoms of spondylosis include pain in the back and neck, stiffness, weakness, loss of feeling in the arms and legs, and problems maintaining balance. Spondylosis is usually treated with a combination of physical therapy and medication, as well as changes in lifestyle. In some cases, surgery may be appropriate.
If you are suffering pain and you believe that you may have spondylosis, call our office to set up an appointment.