Cervical spondylosis is a degenerative process that develops in the bones of the neck (vertebrae) and intervertebral discs, resulting in compression of the spinal cord in the neck. 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;
- Bone Spurs. Excessive bone growth causes the body to try to grow more bones in order to make the spinal cord stronger. Thus, the bone presses on the sensitive parts of the spinal cord, such as the nerves, and the spinal cord causes pain;
- Spine disc dehydration The thick discs that sit between the backbones absorb impacts such as lifting, twisting, and other activities. The gel-like material inside these discs dries out over time. For this reason, the spine and bones rub against each other more and cause unbearable pain to a person. This process has been observed in people over 30;
- Herniated disc. Cervical spondylosis can be caused by herniated intervertebral discs. Spinal discs have a tendency to crack, which allows internal materials to flow. These materials, when extracted, can press on the spinal cord and nerves and cause problems such as hand numbness and pain that radiates down to the hand;
- Abuse. Certain activities or habits may involve repetition of movement and may put pressure on the spinal cord and lead to gradual early wear and tear.
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.
- Female sex;
- Age 35–49;
- Hereditary predisposition;
- Depression, anxiety, inadequate strategies for coping with stress, somatization (pain and negative emotions reinforce each other);
- Sleep disorder;
- Sedentary lifestyle, office work;
- High body mass index;
- Injuries: “whiplash” (sharp extension-flexion in the cervical spine), sports, transport;
- Hard physical labor, dissatisfaction with work and relationships in the team.
A doctor may suspect cervical spondylosis based on symptoms, especially in the elderly and people with osteoarthritis.
The diagnosis is confirmed by the results of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT). MRI is more informative because it allows you to see the spinal cord and spinal nerve roots. Computed tomography (CT) does not show them. Both examinations allow you to see where the spinal canal narrows, how much the spinal cord is compressed, and which spinal nerve roots may be affected.
- 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.
- 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.
It is impossible to completely cure cervical spondylosis. Once it occurs, the disease remains for life, significantly reducing the quality of life. Therefore, special attention should be paid to the prevention of degenerative changes in the spine. Observe the following recommendations:
- Lead an active lifestyle and perform regular physical activity, which will help strengthen the muscular frame of the back;
- With sedentary work, take a break every hour and warm up for 10-15 minutes;
- Adhere to the rules of a balanced and rational diet;
- Avoid injuries and injuries to the spine;
- Sleep on a comfortable, preferably orthopedic pillow.
If you notice the first signs of cervical spondylosis, you should consult a doctor. Detection of degenerative changes in the early stages will allow for effective treatment and achieve maximum therapeutic results.
IMPORTANT: This is a summary and does NOT have all possible information about this medical condition. This information cannot be used as a substitute for medical advice. Consult your health care provider if you have this health condition. Always ask your health care provider for complete information about your individual health needs.
Posted by RxMed