What is Cervical Spondylosis?
Cervical spondylosis, commonly known as the arthritis of the neck or cervical osteoarthritis, refers to the wear and tear-related pain and stiffness that occurs in your cervical spine (neck) region.
Cervical spondylosis affects your neck’s vertebrae, joints, bones, and discs. This is a common condition that affects almost 80 percent of people above the age of 60 years. It is a progressive condition in which one degeneration leads to more such changes in the anatomy of your neck. Once your discs start to degenerate, it leads to a loss in their height, bulging, and buckling. All of these gradually start impacting the structure and the mechanical integrity of the bones and the supportive tissues causing excessive load on your neck.
What are the Symptoms of Cervical Spondylosis?
For some people, there may be no symptoms of cervical spondylosis while others may feel sudden symptoms. Here are some signs of cervical spondylosis to look out for:
- Neck pain that travels to your shoulders or arms and gets worse with movement.
- Neck stiffness.
- Constant headaches, especially at the back of your head.
- Clicking, popping, or grinding sounds during neck movements.
- Numbness in your hands, shoulders, or arms.
Besides these, there are some serious symptoms of cervical spondylosis that warrant immediate medical attention:
- Sudden onset of severe tingling or numbness.
- Loss of bladder or bowel control.
- Severe dizziness.
What Causes Cervical Spondylosis?
The most common cervical spondylosis causes are aging and related wear and tear when your bones, cartilage, and joints of your neck start to degenerate after decades of use. The major age-related causes of cervical spondylosis are:
- Herniation: This condition happens when age-related wear and tear causes the disks in your neck to tear, crack, or bulge out.
- Degeneration: This is the condition when your disks become thinner and the soft tissue loses its elasticity.
- Bone spurs: This condition occurs when the cartilage in the vertebrae joints starts to degenerate leading the bones to rub against each other. This rubbing causes abnormal bone growth.
- Osteoarthritis: This is a progressive age-related condition that causes your cartilage to wear down faster than the normal aging process.
Besides these age-related reasons, there are other cervical spondylosis causes too:
- Being in an occupation that involves repetitive neck motions. These include painters, office workers, plumbers, etc.
- Suffering a neck injury.
- Genetic reasons.
How is Cervical Spondylosis Diagnosed?
Spondylosis of the neck is diagnosed by:
- Physical exam: Your doctor will conduct a thorough physical examination to check your neck’s range of motion, reflexes, and muscle strength.
- Imaging tests: These tests are done to obtain not just the correct diagnosis of cervical spondylosis but also to decide the proper line of treatment and to rule out other overlapping conditions. Imaging tests for cervical spondylosis may include a neck X-Ray, MRI, CT scan, or myelography.
- Nerve function tests: These tests, including nerve conduction study and electromyography, are done to assess if your nerve signals are communicating optimally with your muscles to pinpoint the cause of cervical spondylosis.
How is Cervical Spondylosis Treated?
While there is no cervical spondylosis cure i.e. this condition cannot be reversed, there are treatments that help manage pain and discomforting symptoms. They also aim towards preventing permanent injuries or disabilities.
Cervical spondylosis treatment depends on factors such as your age, general state of health, and severity of the condition. These include:
- Medications: Your doctor may advise these medications to manage your inflammation, pain, muscle spasm, and stiffness occurring due to cervical spondylosis:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
- Muscle relaxants
- Steroid injections
- Anti-seizure medicines
- Ice and heat massage: This is one of the most common effective cervical spondylosis treatments. When coupled with massage, this helps in improving your blood circulation and reducing pain and stiffness.
- Physiotherapy: Your doctor may advise physiotherapy sessions that involve specific cervical exercises. These exercises help in stretching and strengthening your neck muscles to relieve pain and improve your posture. The duration of exercises for cervical spondylosis will depend on how severe your symptoms are and how long your body is taking in responding.
- Braces: Your doctor may advise a soft collar or neck brace to stabilise your neck and restrict sudden movements. This is also a great way to let your neck muscles recuperate and rest.
How is cervical spondylosis treated with exercise?
Though cervical spondylosis is a painful condition and you may often want to avoid movement and rest, too much rest can worsen your symptoms in the long run. That’s why specialists recommend cervical pain exercises to relieve pain and discomfort.
Millions of people have benefited through cervical exercises that are specially designed to gently add movement, stretch, and strengthen the muscles in your neck.
Here are some of the most effective exercises for cervical spondylosis:
- Neck tilt: One of the best exercises for cervical spondylosis, this increases the mobility in your neck.
- Tilt your head forward to make your chin touch your chest.
- Remember to engage your neck muscles.
- Hold the pose for 5-8 seconds.
- Come back to the starting position.
- Neck turn: This is an effective cervical pain exercise that reduces pain and stiffness from your neck region by giving your muscles a good stretch.
- Gently lean your head sideways towards your right shoulder while engaging your neck muscles.
- Hold the position for 5 seconds and return to the starting position.
- Repeat on the other side.
- Neck stretch: One of the best exercises for cervical spondylosis, this helps your muscles to relax by relieving the compression.
- Gently push your chin forward while stretching your throat.
- Engage your neck muscles.
- Hold the position for 5-6 seconds and come back to the starting position.
While there is no cervical spondylosis cure, it doesn’t mean that you have to bear pain and discomfort always. Doing home workouts, leading a healthy lifestyle, consuming nutritious food, and reducing your stress go a long way in helping you manage this condition and lead an active and full life.
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