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Demystifying Spondylosis vs. Spondylitis: Understanding the Differences

Home > Blogs > Demystifying Spondylosis vs. Spondylitis: Understanding the Differences

Demystifying Spondylosis vs. Spondylitis: Understanding the Differences

Orthopedics & Joint Replacement | by Dr. Rakesh Rajput | Published on 18/01/2024


Do you also get confused between spondylosis and spondylitis? Well, you are not the only one. Most people misunderstand these two problems because of their similar prefix referring to the spine. While these have similar symptoms, they are both two different conditions. Wear and tear linked to age causes spondylosis, whereas, spondylitis is a result of an autoimmune condition that affects joints and nearby tissues.

If you often experience pain, stiffness, and fatigue, then book your appointment with the best orthopedic surgeon in Kolkata at Calcutta Medical Research Institute, one of the best multi-specialty hospitals across the city. You will find the best healthcare experts here having years of experience in their respective fields. In this blog, we will involve a discussion on spondylosis and spondylitis for better understanding. Please note that this blog is only for informative purposes and we do not promote ignoring the orthopedic doctor’s consultation in any way.

What is Spondylitis?

Spondylitis also referred to as spondyloarthritis is a group of conditions in which the patient experiences joints and spine-related inflammation. The condition is frequently autoimmune in origin implying that inflammation is an outcome from the immune system of the body unintentionally attacking its tissues. The fusing of spinal vertebrae due to acute inflammation over time may decline range of motion and flexibility. However, hereditary tendency has been identified, and the precise cause of spondylitis remains unclear. 

What is Spondylosis?

The word "spondylosis" is frequently used to determine age-related degenerative changes in the spine. Spondylosis, known as spinal osteoarthritis mainly affects the intervertebral discs, vertebral bodies, and related spine joints. This condition causes various symptoms and complications that can negatively affect a person's quality of life, even though it is a normal aspect of aging. Age-related wear and tear on the spine leads to a degenerative condition known as spondylosis, also known as spinal osteoarthritis. Intervertebral discs become less elastic as people age, which can result in the development of bone spurs and thickening of ligaments.

What are the symptoms of Spondylitis and Spondylosis?

The spine is impacted by spondylitis and spondylosis, which can be painful and uncomfortable. Despite their similarities, they vary in some ways. The symptoms for both conditions are as:


  • Pain and Stiffness: Chronic back pain and stiffness, particularly in the neck and lower back.
  • Reduced Range of Motion: Limited range of motion, making it difficult to comfortably bend or twist the spine.
  • Fatigue: An increase in energy expenditure, chronic fatigue is a common symptom.
  • Morning Stiffness: Stiffness in the morning, but this can go away during the day and go downhill with exercise.
  • Tenderness and Swelling: Tenderness and swelling around the spine's joints and ligaments.
  • Eye inflammation: It causes eye inflammation leading to redness, pain, and light sensitivity.
  • Weight Loss: Unintentional weight loss 


  • Soreness and rigidity: Spondylosis and spondylitis both cause pain and stiffness in the spine, but spondylosis is linked to degenerative changes.
  • Bone spurs: It causes excruciating pain and limited range of motion.
  • Numbness and Tingling: Structural alterations particularly in the arms and legs.
  • Muscle Weakness: Degeneration of the spine and nerve compression can cause weakness in the muscles, especially in the arms or legs.
  • Loss of Bladder or Bowel Control: A sign of spinal cord compression that needs to be treated right away.
  • Radiating Pain in the Body 
  • Walking Difficulties: Patients experience walking difficulties, including imbalance or a shuffling gait.

What causes Spondylitis and Spondylosis?

The causes of both spondylitis and spondylosis are similar to one another except for one or two causes. Here are some of them:

  • Age: Aging is usually linked to both spondylitis and spondylosis. The spine is more susceptible to these conditions as it ages due to wear and tear.
  • Genetics: The patient’s vulnerability to spondylitis and spondylosis is impacted by genetic factors. The probability of having these conditions can be raised by a family history of them.
  • Bad Posture: By putting too much pressure on the spine, poor posture, particularly when sitting or standing for extended periods, can aggravate spondylitis and spondylosis.
  • Sedentary Lifestyle: Inactivity weakens the muscles supporting the spine, enhancing the risk of spondylosis and other degenerative changes.
  • Trauma and Injury: Spinal injuries from accidents, falls, or other traumatic events increase the possibility of developing spondylitis.
  • Smoking: One of the main causes of spondylosis is accelerated disc degeneration related to smoking.
  • Infections: Fungal or bacterial infections that affect the spine can result in spondylitis.

Difference between Spondylitis and Spondylosis

Here is an overview of spondylitis and spondylosis for better comprehension:

  • Nature of the condition: Spondylitis is primarily an inflammatory disorder, where the immune system mistakenly attacks the spine causing pain, stiffness, and potential fusion of vertebrae. Spondylosis, a degenerative disease is linked to aging causing pain and decreased mobility due to the slow degradation of the joints and spinal discs.
  • Underlying causes: Spondylitis is usually linked to autoimmune factors, with conditions like ankylosing spondylitis having a strong genetic component. One important aspect is inflammation. Spondylosis is caused by mechanical stress on the spine, aging, and wear and tear. 
  • Signs: Spondylitis involves weariness, stiffness in the morning, and inflammatory back pain. A stooped posture may result from severe cases of spine fusion. Spondylosis involves chronic pain, stiffness, and loss of flexibility. Activities can worsen the symptoms, which can include nerve compression causing pain to radiate.
  • Tools for Diagnosis: Spondylitis is diagnosed by imaging studies such as MRI to identify inflammation, blood tests (e.g., HLA-B27), and clinical evaluation. Spondylosis involves imaging tests, such as X-rays, which are used to diagnose the condition. These tests reveal degenerative changes like bone spurs, disc space narrowing, and facet joint arthritis.
  • Method of Treatment: Spondylitis is managed and treated by anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, and, in severe cases, biologic drugs. It's vital to exercise to keep your flexibility. Physical therapy, lifestyle changes, pain management, and in certain situations, surgery to correct severe compression or instability are all part of the treatment for spondylosis.
  • Prognosis: The prognosis varies, but symptoms can be controlled and the disease's progression slowed with early diagnosis and appropriate care in spondylitis. Spondylosis is usually identified as a severe, progressive illness, symptoms can be effectively controlled with a combination of conservative treatments and, when required, surgical interventions.


It is essential to recognize the differences between spondylitis and spondylosis to seek immediate medical attention. Through knowledge of the unusual characteristics of these spinal disorders and appropriate treatment, patients can effectively manage their health on a proactive basis. Seeking advice from medical experts is an important step for individualized treatment plans and the best results when managing the complications of spondylitis and spondylosis.



Can cervical spondylosis cause dizziness?

Yes, cervical spondylosis is determined as one of the primary causes of cervicogenic dizziness.

Is cervical spondylitis curable?

Since cervical spondylitis cannot be cured as it affects the neck through wear and tear but it can be managed by healthcare professionals. 

Can cervical spondylosis cause vertigo?

Yes, cervical spondylosis causes vertigo and is common in people with head trauma.