Cervical spondylosis is a type of osteoarthritis that affects the cartilage and vertebrae in the neck. This condition primarily affects adults as they age, but children and teenagers can also develop it in certain instances. Statistics show that cervical spondylosis occurs in approximately 85 percent of people over the age of 60, although it can occur at any age.
Those affected by cervical spondylosis experience a variety of symptoms ranging from mild to severe. Some people never develop troublesome symptoms, while others find it limits their daily activities. Injuries to the neck in an accident or during sports can lead to arthritic conditions such as this. People who have very stiff ligaments may also find themselves dealing with cervical spondylosis as they age. Certain careers may also increase the likelihood of developing this type of condition. People who do similar repetitive movements everyday actually increase the amount of wear and tear on their joints and vertebrae, making spondylosis more likely. In addition, some things that can make this condition more likely are being overweight, smoking and not exercising.
Many people experience no symptoms with cervical spondylosis. However, those who do often report frequent headaches, muscle spasms, popping sensations in the neck and loss of balance, which can lead to difficulty walking and may lead to frequent falls in older people. In severe cases, the nerve roots in the neck may become narrow and cause tingling in the arms, hands and fingers.
It is important for those who have symptoms of spondylosis to see a doctor for a full evaluation and treatment plan. In order to determine if the condition is the cause of neck pain, the doctor will obtain pertinent details about the history of the patient such as the length of time from the onset of pain and if an injury to the neck had ever occurred. Certain tests may help diagnosis cervical spondylosis. Doctors will perform a full physical examination, balance tests, reflexes and observe the patient’s gait before making a determination as to the cause of neck pain. To confirm the diagnosis, doctors may order x-rays, a CT scan or an MRI. Doctors may also order blood tests, so that other conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis can be ruled out.
Treatment for this condition largely depends on the severity of symptoms. Those who do not have severe pain, may find that over-the-counter drugs such as ibuprofen are enough to keep pain under control. For those with moderate to severe pain, medications such as corticosteroids, antidepressants and muscle relaxants may be prescribed. Certain seizure medications can also be helpful to relieve arthritic pain caused by nerve damage. Physical therapy is often a key factor in pain relief. Therapists can use modalities such as hot packs, traction and ultrasound to ease muscular pain. Exercises to stretch painful neck and shoulder muscles can also help a great deal. Alternative treatments such as acupuncture may work to relieve pain, but it is important to seek treatment from a reputable, licensed acupuncture technician to achieve optimal results.
People who have severe pain and do not get relief with traditional methods may be candidates for surgery. Doctors may fuse the vertebrae in the spine together or remove bone spurs so there is less pain in the neck. Those with this condition may also need to make lifestyle changes to include regular exercise to strengthen neck muscles and improve overall health.
Cervical spondylosis can be painful, but there is help available with the proper diagnosis, evaluation and treatment plan. Once treatment is sought, many people are able to achieve pain relief and go on to live normal, active lives.