Cervical spondylosis

Cervical spondylosis is a condition in which an abnormal wear occurs on the bones and cartilage of the neck (cervical vertebrae). It causes chronic neck pain.

Causes

Cause of the condition is chronic degeneration of cervical spine. The degeneration includes that of the disks or cushions in between the neck vertebrae and the bone joints of cervical spine. Abnormal growths called ‘spurs’ may also occur on the spine bones (vertebrae). Over time, these structural changes may put pressure on one or more nerve roots. In progressed cases, the spinal cord is also involved. This can affect not only the arms but also legs. These changes are brought about by the daily wear and tear. People very active in sports or at work are more prone to this disease. However aging is the major risk factor. Most people show signs of cervical spondylosis by the age of 60 in their X-rays. Other causative factors are:

Symptoms

Symptoms start showing slowly, but they may also worsen suddenly. Pain may be mild or may be so severe that the patient is unable to move. The pain can be felt over shoulder blade or it may shoot out to the upper arm, forearm and even up to fingers (rarely). It may be worsened after standing or sitting, while laughing, sneezing or coughing, at night or while bending the neck backwards and even while walking for more than some yards. Weakness of some muscles may be felt. This weakness is not often noticed until the physical examination by the doctor, while sometimes the patient may face hard times while lifting arm, squeezing something tightly with hand or some such activity. Other common symptoms are neck stiffness, headaches (particularly on the back side) and numbness in arms, shoulders or legs (rarely). Cervical spondylosis

Diagnosis

Doctor asks the patient to bend head forward and to sides while applying a slight downward pressure on the head. During this test, if the patient feels numbness or pain, it shows that a nerve in the spine is being pressurized. X-rays and MRIs of the neck are useful to find out presence of arthritis or other changes to the spine.

Treatment

The doctor tries to help the patient to manage pain and become active as far as possible. If the patient learns to take care of neck and back in home and keep away from recurrence of pain attacks, he or she can avoid surgery. Most doctors recommend physical therapy which includes stretches which offer pain relief. The therapist teaches the patient techniques to strengthen neck muscles. Even massage sessions by an acupuncture therapist can help in cervical spondylosis. Heat therapy and cold packs are also helpful in stopping the pain flares.

Surgery

If the condition is not relieved by non-surgical procedures, the patient has to undergo surgery. Surgery is performed to remove pressure on the nerves or spinal column.