Cervical spondylosis is also known as arthritis of the neck. It is a medical condition that involves wearing down of the joints, bones, and discs in your neck. 

With age, the cervical spine breaks down and loses all its fluids. This leads to stiffness in the spine. It is a very common condition seen in middle and old aged people. 

Cervical spondylosis causes symptoms like severe neck pain and stiffness. The majority of people do not experience any symptoms because cervical spondylosis is rarely progressive. However, if symptoms do occur, corrective surgery is helpful to cure them. 

Read on to know more about cervical spondylosis.

Symptoms of Cervical Spondylosis

The typical symptom of cervical spondylosis is pain around the shoulder blade. Pain may increase while:

  • Moving your neck

  • Standing

  • Sitting

  • Coughing or sneezing

Some other symptoms are:

  • Tingling, numbness and weakness in the arms, hands, legs or feet
  • Lack of coordination and difficulty in walking
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Headache
  • Muscle spasms in the neck and shoulders

Causes of Cervical Spondylosis 

Cervical spondylosis arises due to the wear and tear of the bones and protective cartilage in your neck due to advancing age.

These changes are normal and they occur in everyone. In fact, nearly half of all middle-aged and older people have worn discs that do not cause painful symptoms. 

Possible causes of the condition include: 

  • Disc Degeneration:  The discs between your spinal bones are thick, padlike cushions that absorb the shock of lifting, twisting, and other movements. The gel-like substance present within these discs has the potential to dry up and may gradually wear down as you age. If you or your parents are shorter in height than you were years ago, this is due to natural disc collapse or settling.

  • Bone Spurs: These are bone overgrowths that form when disk degeneration occurs. This is because your body makes efforts to make the spine stronger. However, these bone spurs can sometimes press the spinal cord and nerve roots, resulting in pain.

  • Ligament Stiffness: Ligaments are bands of tissue that connect bone to bone. These thick cords that connect your spinal bones to one other might become stiff with time, affecting your neck movement and making it feel tight.

  • Herniation: Normal ageing affects the exterior of your spinal disks and may lead to cracks. This is called a herniated disk. This material can put pressure on the spinal cord and nerve roots, causing symptoms including arm numbness and pain that radiates down an arm.

  • Injury: If you have had a neck injury, this might accelerate the ageing process.

Diagnosis of Cervical Spondylosis

Your doctor will most likely begin with a physical examination to assess mobility and determine which nerves, bones, and muscles are damaged.

Other tests include:

1. Imaging Tests: Imaging tests include

  • Neck X-ray

  • Computerised tomography (CT) scans

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans

  • Myelography

2. Nerve Function Tests: Your doctor may advise you to undergo tests to evaluate if nerve impulses are reaching your muscles properly. 

Nerve function tests include:

  • Electromyography

  • Nerve conduction study

Treatment of Cervical Spondylosis 

Treatment for cervical spondylosis is determined by the severity of your symptoms. 

It focuses on providing pain relief, lowering the risk of permanent damage, and helping you lead a normal life. 

1. Non Surgical Methods: Physical therapy and medications like painkillers, muscle relaxants, and steroids will be prescribed by your doctor. 

These are usually very effective to treat the symptoms of cervical spondylosis.

2. Surgery: Your doctor may recommend surgery if conservative treatment fails or if the pain is severe and is affecting your ability to move your arms. This can involve:

  • Removing a herniated disk or bone spurs or parts of your neck bones. 

  • Fusing a segment of your neck using bone graft and hardware.

Consult your doctor if you are experiencing neck pain and stiffness that is interfering with your everyday activities. 

Disclaimer: This article is written by the Practitioner for informational and educational purposes only. The content presented on this page should not be considered as a substitute for medical expertise. Please "DO NOT SELF-MEDICATE" and seek professional help regarding any health conditions or concerns. Practo will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.