Cervical spondylosis is a condition which is age-related and affects the joints in the neck. This condition develops as a result of the wear and tear of the bones and cartilage of the cervical spine. It can be caused by other factors as well, even though it is largely due to age.
Neck arthritis and cervical osteoarthritis are other names used for this conditions. According to studies, cervical spondylosis is present in more than 90% of people who are 65 years old or older. Some people have it in such small degrees that they usually never experience symptoms. In some cases, it may cause chronic pain, although many people who have cervical spondylosis are still able to conduct their normal, daily activities.
As people age, their cartilage and bones which make up the backbone and neck gradually develop wear and tear. Some of the changes may include:
Stiff ligaments: Ligaments are cords of tissue which connect bone to bone. When spinal ligaments stiffen with age, the neck is less flexible.
Bone spurs: The degeneration of disk usually results in the spine producing additional bone in a misguided effort to strengthen your spine. Sometimes, these bone spurs can pinch the spinal cord as well as nerve roots.
Herniated disks: Age affects the exterior of the spinal disks, too. Cracks usually appear, which leads to bulging disks. This sometimes can press on the nerve roots and spinal cord.
Dehydrated disks: Disks, found between the vertebrae of the spine, act like cushions. By the age of 40, spinal disks of most people begin shrinking and drying out, which results in more bone-on-bone contact between the vertebrae.
In case of many people, cervical spondylosis causes no symptoms. However, when symptoms do occur, they often include stiffness and pain in the neck. Sometimes, this condition results in a narrowing of the space needed by the nerve roots and the spinal cord which pass through the spine to the rest of the body. In case the nerve roots or spinal cord become pinched, you might experience loss of bladder or bowel control, lack of coordination and difficulty walking, and tingling, weakness and numbness in your feet, legs, hand, or arms.
Treatments for this condition focus on lowering the risk of permanent damage, providing pain relief, and helping you lead a normal life. Non-surgical methods are often extremely effective. Physical therapy is one of the treatments for cervical spondylosis. This therapy helps you stretch the shoulder and neck muscles and makes them stronger, which results in pain relief.
If over-the-counter drugs don’t work, your doctor might prescribe certain medications. These medications include steroid injections, such as prednisone (for pain relief), anti-seizure drugs, such as gabapentin (to relieve pain caused by nerve damage), narcotics, such as hydrocodone (for pain relief), and muscle relaxant, such as cyclobenzaprine (to treat muscle spasms).
If your condition doesn’t respond to other forms of treatment, and is severe, you might need a surgery. This can require getting rid of parts of your neck bones, bone spurs, or herniated disk to give your nerves and spinal cord more room. However, surgery is, fortunately, rarely necessary for this condition.