Cervical spondylosis is a universal term for age related abrasion from wear and tear on the neck vertebrae and the cartilage between them. Cervical spondylosis is also known as degenerative osteoarthritis and cervical osteoarthritis. This type of neck wear and tear usually occurs after the age of 40 in men and women, but men may develop a little earlier. This wear and tear of the cervical vertebrae often results in neck pain and stiffness.
As we get older, the cartilage and bones slowly weaken. Sometimes the development of irregular bony outgrowths happens which are known as bone spurs. These changes are easily seen on an X-ray. Despite the discomfort from cervical spondylosis, most people are able to live with the chronic discomfort.
In more severe cases of cervical spondylosis, changes occur in the bone structure of the neck which may cause nerve compression. The changes in bone structure can also put pressure on blood vessels which may temporarily block blood flow; if nerve and blood flow in the cervical area are compromised more symptoms are likely to occur. An individual with severe cervical spondylosis may have problems with lack of coordination, lack of sensation in the extremities and loss of bladder control.
Cervical spondylosis causes
Cervical spondylosis is rooted through chronic degeneration of the cervical spine, and the cervical discs that cushion the vertebral joints. Some other factors which increase chances of cervical spondylosis are severe arthritis and neck injury or cervical spine surgery in the past.
Symptoms of cervical spondylosis
Symptoms generally develop slowly but they can also start suddenly as well.
More common symptoms of cervical spondylosis include:
Headaches on the back of head
Loss of sensation in the extremities
Loss of sensation in the shoulders
Loss of balance
Loss of control on the bladder
Weakness in the legs or arms
Diagnostic evaluation for cervical spondylosis
The doctor will examine your neck and ask you to turn your head from side to side, or move your head up and down. An examination for cervical spondylosis often shows restricted ability to turn the head towards shoulder. The doctor may also ask about weakness or loss of sensation. Weakness and loss of sensation are signs of nerve damage. With cervical spondylosis, one’s reflexes may be reduced or absent.
The doctor will likely order a CT scan of the cervical spine, EMG (electromylogram), MRI, and an X-ray of the cervical spine. The doctor may also order an X-ray of the rest of the spinal column, as well.
Treatment options for cervical spondylosis
Because cervical spondylosis is mainly an age-related disease, most of us learn to live with the chronic discomfort associated with the general wear and tear. In most cases, the symptoms can be treated with a combination anti-inflammatory medicines and exercise. The doctor may also administer a steroid injection, such as cortisone. In more severe conditions where the nerve is damaged, surgery may be indicated.
Making positive lifestyle changes may help to alleviate some of the pain associated with cervical spondylosis. If you are a fairly sedentary person, you may be able to relieve your discomfort and increase mobility by getting adequate exercise every day. It is important to maintain correct posture as much as possible to protect the neck and back from further deterioration.
Most of us will live with the discomforts of age related wear and tear to the neck. Occasional injections of steroids to reduce inflammation, and the use of NSAIDs (non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and muscle relaxants are useful to treat the discomfort of cervical spondylosis. Another approach to treating the discomfort is to use certain anticonvulsants, such as Tegritol and tricyclic antidepressants, such as Elavil. If the pain and discomfort from cervical spondylosis cannot be managed medically and with exercise, surgery may be the only other option.