Cervical spondylosis is a common term used for age-related wear and tear which affects the spinal disks of your neck. The signs of osteoarthritis develop and appear when the disks begin to dehydrate and shrink along with the bony projections along the edges of bones (bone spurs).
Cervical spondylosis is experienced commonly and worsens with growing age. According to US NIH, more than 85 percent of people (older than 60) experience the symptoms of cervical spondylosis.
Let's know more about the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, risk factors, and treatment of cervical spondylosis.
Cervical Spondylosis: Symptoms
Most people experience no symptoms during cervical spondylosis. And people who do experience any symptoms suffer from neck pain and stiffness.
Cervical spondylosis results in the narrow space needed by the spinal cord and the nerve roots passing through the spine to the rest of your body. Other symptoms of cervical spondylosis include (Mayo Clinic):
Neck pain that slowly transfers to arms and shoulders
A grinding feeling while moving your neck
Weakness in arms and legs
Numb feeling in shoulders, arms, or hands
Trouble in balancing
Trouble in controlling bladder or bowel movements
Tingling feeling in your arms, hands, legs, or feet
Lack of coordination
Difficulty in walking
Cervical Spondylosis: Causes
As people grow older, the bones and cartilage making up the backbone and neck begin to wear and tear. Few causes of cervical spondylosis include (Hopkins Medicine):
Dehydrated disks: By the age of 40, the spinal disks of a few people begin to dry out and shrink, which results in more bone-on-bone contact between the vertebrae.
Herniated disks: Age also affects the spinal cord's exterior. Cracks are formed leading to bulged (herniated) disks – that sometimes press on the spinal cord and nerve roots.
Bone spurs: Disk degeneration results in the production of extra amounts of bone in the spine, which is a misguided effort of strengthening the spine. These bone spurs pinch the spinal cord and nerve roots.
Stiff ligaments: Ligaments are cords of tissue connecting bone to bone. Spinal ligaments stiffen with age, making your neck less flexible.
Cervical Spondylosis: Risk Factors
Risk factors for cervical spondylosis include (Cleveland Clinic):
Age: Older people experience cervical spondylosis.
Occupation: Jobs with repetitive neck motions, awkward positioning, and tasks that put extra stress on your neck can suffer from cervical spondylosis.
Neck injuries: Previous neck injuries increase the risk of cervical spondylosis.
Genetic factors: Individuals whose family members have a history of cervical spondylosis are at a higher risk of suffering from the condition.
Cervical Spondylosis: Diagnosis
If your doctor thinks you might have a risk of suffering from cervical spondylosis, they may:
Check the range of motion of your neck
Test your reflexes and muscle strength check pressure on your spinal nerves or spinal cord
Ask you to walk to check if spinal compression is affecting your gait
Few Imaging tests for the diagnosis of cervical spondylosis include:
Neck X-ray to detect abnormalities like bone spurs, tumors, infections, and fractures or to rule out rare and more serious causes for neck pain and stiffness.
CT scan for more detailed imaging, particularly of bones.
MRI can help pinpoint areas where the nerves might be pinching.
Myelography to provide more detailed X-ray or CT imaging.
Nerve function tests include:
Electromyography measures the electrical activity in your nerves when they transmit messages to your muscles if they are contracting or at rest.
Nerve conduction study in which small shock is passed through the nerve to measure the strength and speed of nerve signals.
Cervical Spondylosis: Treatment
Physical therapy can be helpful for treating cervical spondylosis. It helps to stretch the neck and shoulder muscles making them stronger and helping relieve pain.
Your doctor might also suggest neck traction which involves the use of weights to increase the space between the cervical joints. It also helps relieve pressure on the cervical discs and nerve roots.
Certain medications can help if over-the-counter (OTC) drugs don’t work. These include:
Muscle relaxants to treat muscle spasms.
Narcotics for pain relief.
Anti-epileptic drugs to relieve pain caused by nerve damage.
Steroid injections to reduce inflammation and the resulting pain
Prescription-based nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for inflammation.
If the condition is severe and doesn’t respond to other treatments, people might need surgery. Surgeries may involve the removal of bone spurs, parts of your neck bones, or herniated discs to provide more space for the the spinal cord and nerves.
Doctors rarely suggest surgery for cervical spondylosis. However, it is a doctor may recommend it if the pain is severe and it affects the ability to move your arms.