Manage & Cure Neck Pain Cervical Spondylosis
With age, the discs of the cervical spine gradually break down, lose fluid, and become stiffer.
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Cervical spondylosis usually occurs in middle-aged and elderly people. As a result of the degeneration of discs and other cartilage, spurs or abnormal growths called osteophytes may form on the bones in the neck. These abnormal growths can cause narrowing of the interior of the spinal column or in the openings where spinal nerves exit, a related condition called cervical spinal stenosis. Cervical spondylosis most often causes neck pain and stiffness. Although cervical spondylosis is rarely progressive, corrective surgery can be helpful in severe cases.
Aging is the major factor for developing cervical osteoarthritis cervical spondylosis. In most people older than age 50, the discs between the vertebrae become less spongy and provide less of a cushion. Bones and ligaments get thicker, encroaching on the space of the spinal canal. Another factor might be a previous injury to the neck.
People in certain occupations or who perform specific activities -- such as gymnasts or other athletes -- may put more stress on their necks. Poor posture might also play a role in the development of spinal changes that result in cervical spondylosis. Symptoms of cervical spondylosis tend to improve with rest. Symptoms are most severe in the morning and again at the end of the day.
If cervical spondylosis results in pressure on the spinal cord cervical stenosis , it can put pressure on the spinal cord, a condition called cervical myelopathy. Symptoms of cervical spondylosis with myelopathy include:. Another possible complication of cervical spondylosis is cervical radiculopathy , when bone spurs press on nerves as they exit the bones of the spinal column. Pain shooting down into one or both arms is the most common symptom.
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The doctor will generally begin by asking you about symptoms and taking a medical history. This will be followed by a physical exam of the body, with a focus on the neck, back, and shoulders. The doctor is also likely to test reflexes and the strength of hands and arms, check for loss of sensation, and watch you walk. Other tests that might be done include imaging exams such as X-rays, computed tomography CT , and magnetic resonance imaging MRI. MRI scans use large magnets, radio waves, and a computer to produce the best images of the body.
You might also be referred to a neurologist. Cervical spondylosis tends to be a chronic long-term condition. But in most cases, it is not progressive. Surgery is required only in rare cases. I was diagnosed with this condition about four years ago at the age of I have a family history of osteoarthritis, which has gifted me with a predisposition for this condition.
However, Mayo reports that most people will not have symptoms other than some stiffness in the neck as they reach advanced ages. For those of us who do have symptoms, this condition is quite literally a pain in the neck. Other than aging, the Mayo Clinic says causes can include a past neck injury, a job that puts added stress on the neck and even a genetic predisposition to the condition like the one that exists in my family tree. Information about cervical spondylosis published on the U.
National Library of Medicine NLM website says that symptoms of this disease, when present, generally appear over time and can be mild or severe, depending upon the amount of damage between the vertebrae. In my case, the damage is not yet so widespread as to cause ongoing severe pain or permanent nerve damage.
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However, if the bones begin to press or pinch nerves or nerve endings, it can result in pain over the shoulder blades or parts of the arms, as well as weakness in certain affected muscles, NLM reports. In some cases, numbness or headaches can also result. I have experienced all of these symptoms at one time or another, but they were fortunately temporary and resulted from flare-ups rather than permanent damage.
Since I also have osteoarthritis in my shoulder joints, particularly the right shoulder, I sometimes mistake the pain from one area as coming from the other. However, when the pain continues into the upper or lower arm, it is usually the result of connected nerves in my neck. When this happens, I prefer to seek relief through methods other than drugs or prescription medicines.
Cervical Spondylosis Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
Instead, I swear by regular visits to a chiropractor, who helps me relieve the muscle spasms and align the vertebrae to relieve the pressure on the nerves. In this way, my chiropractor provided me a great deal of relief from my arthritis symptoms on a regular basis. According to NLM , cervical spondylosis can be diagnosed with a simple X-ray for signs of osteoarthritis in the neck area of the spine.
However, the Mayo Clinic describes more in-depth tests, such as an MRI a magnetic resonance imaging test during which you lie in a large magnetized tube or a CT computerized tomography scan, which takes X-rays from many different directions. These may be used on an ongoing basis to help your doctor better treat this condition.
This is particularly true when pain or numbness indicates possible nerve pinching or nerve damage. I was fortunate in that the neck X-ray was sufficient in my case.
While I have occasional numbness from nerve pinching, it isn't severe or permanent. As with other forms of osteoarthritis, there is no cure for the disease itself. However, there are ways to help alleviate some or all of the symptoms. Gentle stretching to keep the surrounding muscles flexible is one method that I have found effective personally. The NLM also lists physical therapy as a means of strengthening neck muscles, massage therapy as a way of relieving muscle tension and spasms in the neck and shoulders and the use of hot or cold therapy as needed.
I have tried hot and cold therapy, and I've found that cold packs applied to the base of my neck are very effective for relieving neck tension and related headaches. According to my doctor, the cold helps to relieve swelling in the nerves or nerve endings that may be causing the pain and muscle tension. The Mayo Clinic also says that over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs are often used. I swear by ibuprofen and naproxen, but only for occasional flare-ups as needed. Additionally, the Mayo Clinic notes that other options include steroid injections, muscle relaxants and possibly even narcotic pain relievers; however, these tend to be used only in the most severe cases.
If the damage becomes extreme or permanent, surgery is also an option. I have been fortunate so far in that generally I can manage with over-the-counter remedies combined with the nonmedicinal methods discussed above. NLM gives examples of extreme symptoms or complications involved with cervical spondylosis, such as poor balance, nerve damage that results in permanent disability and loss of bladder or bowel control due to spinal cord damage.