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Definition

What is cervical spondylosis?

Cervical spondylosis, is also known as cervical osteoarthritis or neck arthritis, is a common, age-related condition that influences the joints and discs in your neck. It develops from wear and tear of the cartilage and bones found in your cervical spine, which is in your neck. While it’s largely due to age, it can be engendered by other factors as well. For some, it can cause chronic, severe pain and stiffness. However, many people who have it are still able to conduct normal daily activities.

How common is cervical spondylosis?

Cervical spondylosis is present in more than 85 percent of people over the age of 60, although some people who have it never experience symptoms.

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of cervical spondylosis?

Almost people with cervical spondylosis don’t experience significant symptoms. If symptoms do appear, they can range from mild to severe and may develop gradually or occur suddenly.

One popular symptom is pain around the shoulder blade. Patients will complain of pain along the arm and in the fingers. The pain might increase when:

  • Standing
  • Sitting
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Tilting your neck backward

Another popular symptom is muscle weakness. Muscle weakness makes it difficult to lift the arms or grasp objects firmly.

Some other common signs include:

  • A stiff neck that becomes worse
  • Headaches that mostly occur in the back of the head
  • Tingling or numbness that mainly affects shoulders and arms, although it can also occur in the legs

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consulting with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes cervical spondylosis?

Unfortunately, the bones and protective cartilage in your neck are prone to wear and tear that can lead to cervical spondylosis. Some possible causes of the condition may include:

Bone spurs

These overgrowths of bone are the consequence of the body trying to grow extra bone to make the spine stronger. However, the extra bone can press on delicate areas of the spine, such as the spinal cord and nerves, resulting in pain.

Dehydrated spinal disks

Your spinal bones have discs between them, which are thick, pad-like cushions that absorb the shock of lifting, twisting, and other activities. The gel-like material inside these disks can dry out over time. This causes your bones (spinal vertebrae) to rub together more, which can be painful.

Herniated disks

The spinal disks can develop cracks, which allows leakage of the internal cushioning material. This material can press on the spinal cord and nerves, resulting in symptoms such as arm numbness and sciatica.

Injury

If you’ve had an injury to your neck, such as during a fall or car accident, this can accelerate the aging process.

Ligament stiffness

The tough cords that connect your spinal bones to each other can become even stiffer over time, which affects your neck movement and makes the neck feel tight.

Overuse

Some occupations or hobbies involve repetitive movements or heavy lifting, such as construction work. This can put extra pressure on the spine, resulting in early wear and tear.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for cervical spondylosis?

It is believed that the greatest risk factor for cervical spondylosis is aging. Cervical spondylosis often develops as a consequence of changes in your neck joints as you age. Some conditions such as disk herniation, dehydration, and bone spurs are all results of aging. Besides aging, other factors can increase your risk of cervical spondylosis. These include:

  • Neck injuries
  • Work-related activities that put extra strain on your neck from heavy lifting
  • Holding your neck in an uncomfortable position for prolonged periods of time or repeating the same neck movements throughout the day (repetitive stress)
  • Genetic factors (family history of cervical spondylosis)
  • Smoking
  • Being overweight and inactive

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is cervical spondylosis diagnosed?

If your doctor suspects that you may experience this condition, a physical examination will be performed and some tests will be also recommended by your doctor. Typical exams include testing your reflexes, checking for muscle weakness or sensory deficits, and testing the range of motion of your neck. Your doctor might also want to watch how you walk. All of this helps your doctor determine if your nerves and spinal cord are under too much pressure.

Some imaging tests are possibly ordered by your doctor, include:

X-rays

It can be used to check for bone spurs and other abnormalities.

CT scans

This test can provide more detailed images of your neck.

MRI

This produce use radio waves and a magnetic field, helps your doctor locate pinched nerves.

Myelogram

It is a dye injection is used to highlight certain areas of your spine. CT scans or X-rays are then used to provide more detailed images of these areas.

An electromyogram (EMG)

EMG is used to check that your nerves are functioning normally when sending signals to your muscles. EMG measures your nerves’ electrical activity.

How is cervical spondylosis treated?

Treatments for cervical spondylosis concentrate on providing pain relief, lowering the risk of permanent damage, and assisting you to return a normal life. Nonsurgical methods are usually very effective.

Physical therapy

Physical therapy helps you stretch your neck and shoulder muscles. This makes them stronger and ultimately helps to relieve pain. You might also have neck traction, which involves using weights to increase the space between the cervical joints and relieve the pressure on the cervical discs and nerve roots.

Medications

Your doctor might prescribe certain medications if over-the-counter drugs don’t work. These include:

  • Muscle relaxants, such as cyclobenzaprine, to treat muscle spasms
  • Narcotics, such as hydrocodone, for pain relief
  • Anti-epileptic drugs, such as gabapentin, to relieve pain caused by nerve damage
  • Steroid injections, such as prednisone, to reduce tissue inflammation and subsequently lessen pain

Surgery

In case your condition is severe and doesn’t respond to other forms of treatment, you might need surgery. This can involve getting rid of bone spurs, parts of your neck bones, or herniated disks to give your spinal cord and nerves more room. However, surgery is rarely necessary for cervical spondylosis. A doctor may recommend it if the pain is severe and it’s affecting your ability to move your arms.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage cervical spondylosis?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with cervical spondylosis:

  • Use a heating pad or a cold pack on your neck to provide pain relief for sore muscles.
  • Exercise regularly to help you recover faster.
  • Wear a soft neck brace or collar to get temporary relief. However, you shouldn’t wear a neck brace or collar for long periods of time because that can make your muscles weaker

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: August 4, 2017 | Last Modified: August 4, 2017