Cervical spondylosis is a general term for age-related wear and tear affecting the disks in your neck. These changes later contribute to the development of cervical osteoarthritis in the joints that link your neck bones (facet joints).
Cervical spondylosis and osteoarthritis are most common in people older than age 55, and both conditions progress with age.
Many people with signs of cervical spondylosis and osteoarthritis on X-rays manage to escape associated symptoms, which include pain, stiffness and muscle spasms. When symptoms do occur, nonsurgical treatments often are effective.
Cervical spondylosis typically affects only the neck, causing pain and stiffness. When nerve compression also is present, signs and symptoms of cervical spondylosis may include:
When to see a doctor
Call your doctor for an immediate appointment if you develop neck pain along with:
Call your doctor for an appointment if you develop neck pain that:
Also call for an appointment if you develop neck pain and are older than age 50 or have a history of cancer.
As you age, the bones and cartilage that make up your backbone and neck gradually deteriorate, sometimes forming irregular bony outgrowths called bone spurs. These changes, which are characteristic of cervical spondylosis, eventually occur in everyone's spine.
Age-related wear and tear is probably the basic cause of cervical spondylosis. By age 30, many people show signs of vertebral and disk degeneration on X-ray, although symptoms usually don't appear until later in life. Specific changes occurring with age include:
Cervical spondylosis is degeneration of the bones and disks in the neck, which can lead to a variety of problems, including herniated disks. ...
Aging and wear and tear on your spine are the major risk factors for cervical spondylosis. You may be more likely to develop cervical spondylosis if you've had a neck injury.
Cervical spondylosis is the most common cause of spinal cord dysfunction in older adults.
In a small percentage of cases, cervical spondylosis may compress one or more of the spinal nerves — a condition called cervical radiculopathy. Bone spurs and other irregularities caused by cervical spondylosis also may reduce the diameter of the canal that houses the spinal cord. When the spinal canal narrows to the point that it causes spinal cord injury, the resulting condition is referred to as cervical myelopathy. Both cervical radiculopathy and cervical myelopathy can lead to permanent disability.
Preparing for your appointment
Make an appointment with your doctor if you have signs and symptoms common to cervical spondylosis. After an initial evaluation, your doctor may refer you to a doctor or physical therapist who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of spine disorders.
Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
Below are some basic questions to ask a doctor who is examining you for possible cervical spondylosis. If any additional questions occur to you during your visit, don't hesitate to ask.
Don't hesitate to ask any additional questions that occur to you during your medical evaluation.
What to expect from the doctor
What you can do in the meantime
Until your doctor evaluates you, try to find a comfortable way to exercise while avoiding activities that cause you pain. When needed, rest for short periods of time.
Tests and diagnosis
Your symptoms and history, along with an examination, may suggest that you have cervical spondylosis. You may also have imaging tests. The work-up may include:
Treatments and drugs
Without treatment, the signs and symptoms of cervical spondylosis usually decrease or stabilize. Occasionally, they may worsen. The goal of treatment is to relieve pain, help you maintain your usual activities as much as possible, and prevent permanent injury to the spinal cord and nerves.
Treatment of mild cases
Treatment of more serious cases
Risks of surgery
Laminectomy enlarges your spinal canal to relieve pressure on the spinal cord or nerves. This pressure can be caused by a variety of problems, including bony overgrowths within the spinal canal (...
Lifestyle and home remedies
For mild neck pain or stiffness:
Follow these self-care steps for six to eight weeks as long as your symptoms don't get worse and you don't develop new symptoms, such as bowel or bladder problems or weakness in your arms and legs.
You may not be able to prevent cervical spondylosis. However, you may be able to reduce your risk by following these suggestions:
Last Updated: 2010-02-27
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