The bones and protective cartilage in your neck are prone to wear and tear that can lead to cervical spondylosis. Possible causes of the condition include:
These overgrowths of bone are the result of the body trying to grow extra bone to make the spine stronger.
However, the extra bone can press on delicate areas of the spine, such as the spinal cord and nerves, resulting in pain.
Dehydrated spinal discs
Your spinal bones have discs between them, which are thick, pad like cushions that absorb the shock of lifting, twisting, and other activities. The gel-like material inside these discs can dry out over time. This causes your bones (spinal vertebrae) to rub together more, which can be painful.
This process can begin to happen in your 30s.
Spinal discs can develop cracks, which allows leakage of the internal cushioning material. This material can press on the spinal cord and nerves, resulting in symptoms such as arm numbness as well as pain that radiates down an arm. Learn more about herniated discs.
If you’ve had an injury to your neck (during a fall or car accident, for example), this can accelerate the aging process.
The tough cords that connect your spinal bones to each other can become even stiffer over time, which affects your neck movement and makes the neck feel tight.
Some occupations or hobbies involve repetitive movements or heavy lifting
(such as construction work). This can put extra pressure on the spine,
resulting in early wear and tear.
The greatest risk factor for cervical spondylosis is aging. Cervical spondylosis often develops as a result of changes in your neck joints as you age. Disc herniation, dehydration, and bone spurs are all results of aging.
Factors other than aging can increase your risk of cervical spondylosis. These include:
Most people with cervical spondylosis don’t have significant symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they can range from mild to severe and may develop gradually or occur suddenly.
One common symptom is pain around the shoulder blade. Some complain of pain along the arm and in the fingers. The pain might increase when:
Another common symptom is muscle weakness. Muscle weakness makes it hard to lift the arms or grasp objects firmly.
Other common signs include:
Symptoms that occur less frequently often include a loss of balance and
a loss of bladder or bowel control. These symptoms warrant
immediate medical attention.
The diagnosis of spondylosis is made using radiology tests such as plain film X-rays, MRI, or CT scans. X-rays can show bone spurs on vertebral bodies in the spine, thickening of facet joints (the joints that connect the vertebrae to each other), and narrowing of the intervertebral disc spaces. CT scans of the spine are able to visualize the spine in greater detail and can diagnose narrowing of the spinal canal (spinal stenosis) when present. MRI scans are expensive but show the greatest detail in the spine and are used to visualize the intervertebral discs, including the degree of disc herniation, if present. An MRI is also used to visualize the vertebrae, the facet joints, the nerves, and the ligaments in the spine and can reliably diagnose a pinched nerve.
Treatments for cervical spondylosis focus on providing pain relief, lowering the risk of permanent damage, and helping you lead a normal life.
Nonsurgical methods are usually very effective.
Your doctor might send you to a physical therapist for treatment. Physical therapy helps you stretch your neck and shoulder muscles. This makes them stronger and ultimately helps to relieve pain.
You might also have neck traction. This involves using weights to increase the space between the cervical joints and relieve the pressure on the cervical discs and nerve roots.
Your doctor might prescribe certain medications if over-the-counter (OTC) drugs don’t work. These include:
If your condition is severe and doesn’t respond to other forms of treatment, you might need surgery. This can involve removing bone spurs, parts of your neck bones, or herniated discs to give your spinal cord and nerves more room.
Surgery is rarely necessary for cervical spondylosis. However, a doctor
may recommend it if the pain is severe and it’s affecting your ability to move
You cannot stop your body from growing older, but you can do a lot to improve the health of your spine. By following the tips listed below, you can enjoy the benefits of a healthy spine at any age.