General Illness Information
Medical Term: Cervical Musculoskeletal Discomfort; Cervical Radiculopathy
Description: Degenerative changes of the vertebrae and the disks in the neck. Cervical spondylosis narrows the spinal canal in the neck, through which the spinal cord runs, causing pressure on nerves and spinal cord at the level of the neck, causing malfunction. Affects men and women equally. Very common after age 50, and considered by many to be a natural aging phenomenon.
- Osteoarthritis (wear and tear on joints that accompanies aging).
- Arthritis (inflammation of a joint).
- Injuries such as automobile accidents with “whiplash” injury, athletic injuries, sudden jerks on the arms, falls.
Prevention: Avoid injury. Wear protective headgear for contact sports. Use seat belts in vehicles and keep headrests at proper height. Avoid sitting in cramped positions.
Signs & Symptoms
Symptoms depend on whether there is nerve root compression or spinal cord compression.
With nerve root compression:
- Pain in the neck, radiating to the shoulder blades, top of the shoulders, upper arms, hands or back of the head.
- Numbness and tingling in the arms, hands and fingers; some loss of feeling in the hands; and impairment of reflexes.
- Muscle weakness and deterioration; diminished reflexes.
- Neck stiffness.
- Dizziness; unsteady gait.
- Crunching sounds with movement of the neck or shoulder muscles.
With Spinal cord compression:
- Change in gait – leg movements become jerky and walking becomes unsteady.
- With advanced disease, loss of bladder control and leg weakness.
- Adults over 50.
- Neck injury.
Diagnosis & Treatment
X-rays or MRI scans or other diagnostic tests may be obtained to confirm the diagnosis
- Apply moist heat. Take hot showers and let the water beat on neck and shoulders for 10 to 20 minutes twice a day. Between showers, apply hot soaks to neck. Soak towel or cloth in hot water, wring out and apply.
- Gentle massage.
- For acute flare-ups, ice packs may be helpful.
- Improve your posture.
- Use a cervical pillow, wear soft fabric collar, or put a small round towel under the neck.
- If numbness or pain affects the hands or arms, your doctor may referred you for cervical-traction.
- Ultrasonic treatments may be recommended.
- Surgery (sometimes) to fuse neck bones, remove a damaged disk or enlarge the spinal-cord space.
- For minor discomfort or disability, you may use aspirin or acetaminophen.
- For serious discomfort, stronger pain medicine, muscle relaxants or tranquilizers may be prescribed.
- Recently, there have been very positive studies on the role of Glucosamine in modifying the disease process. As a result, many physicians are advocating the long-term use of Glucosamine in osteoarthritis.
Any activity that does not cause symptoms is recommended.
No special diet.
Possible Complications :
- Reduced neck flexibility after surgery or treatment.
- If untreated, a spastic gait may result as the disease progresses.
Minor symptoms usually respond well to treatment and subside slowly. Severe symptoms may persist indefinitely.