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Cervical spondylosis

Cervical spondylosis is the degeneration (wearing away) of cervical spine. It is a common age-related ailment. It is also called as cervical osteoarthritis or neck arthritis. This condition can lead to chronic pain and stiffness of the neck.

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Signs and symptoms of Cervical Spondylosis

The signs and symptoms of cervical spondylosis are:

  • A stiff, painful neck
  • Shoulder, arm or chest pain
  • Tingling and pinprick sensations in the arms, hands, legs or feet
  • Numbness and weakness in the arms, hands, legs or feet
  • Lack of coordination
  • Difficulty walking
  • Abnormal reflexes
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control, or urinary or bowel retention

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Causes for Cervical Spondylosis

Cervical spondylosis is usually due to the wear and tear of the cervical spine with age. The disks and cushions between the neck vertebrae and the joints between the bones of the cervical spine are subjected to chronic wear and tear. This may lead to chronic neck pain and arthritis.

Other causes for cervical spondylosis includes:

  • Compression of one or more nerve roots in the neck
  • Herniated disks or slipped disc that causes cracks to appear on the spinal disks leading to pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots
  • Bone spurs or overgrowths occur when the body tries to make the spine stronger by growing extra bone. However, this extra growth puts pressure on the spine leading to pain.

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  • An injury to the neck due to an accident, fall or getting hit by a hard object on the back of the neck can lead to cervical spondylosis
  • Ligament stiffness can lead to stiff neck joints and affecting the way the neck moves.
  • Carrying heavy loads repeatedly can take a toll on the neck bones. This includes construction workers or people who carry heavy load on their heads for transportation.
  • Severe arthritis
  • Professional dancers or gymnasts are at high risk of developing cervical spondylosis.

Diagnosis of Cervical Spondylosis

Cervical spondylosis mainly occurs due to changes in the neck joints with age. The doctor may carry out certain tests and diagnosis to rule out other conditions such as fibromyalgia.

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The diagnostic tests include:

  • Physical examination that includes testing your reflexes, muscle weakness or any sensor deficits. The doctor may also check the range of motion of the neck. You may also be asked to walk to check if the nerves and spinal cord is under any pressure.
  • You will be asked to undergo an X-ray to check for bone spurs or other problems
  • CT Scan or MRI may be ordered
  • Myelogram may be asked to perform to highlight certain areas of the spine.
  • An EMG or electromyogram may be ordered to check the electrical activity of the nerves.

Once the diagnosis is confirmed, the doctor will decide the line of treatment. There are different approaches to treat cervical spondylosis. Speak to your doctor and find the best way to overcome the pain and stiffness of neck due to cervical spondylosis.

Treatment of cervical spondylosis

Treatment of mild cases

Mild cases of cervical spondylosis may respond to:

  • Wearing a neck brace (cervical collar)
  • Taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others) for pain relief.
  • Doing exercises prescribed by a physical therapist to strengthen neck muscles and stretch the neck and shoulders.

Treatment of more serious cases

For more severe cases, nonsurgical treatment may include:

  • Hospitalization with bed rest and traction on the neck for a week or two
  • Taking muscle relaxants, such as methocarbamol or cyclobenzaprine, particularly if neck muscle spasms occur.
  • Injecting corticosteroid medications into the joints between the vertebrae (facet joints)


If conservative treatment fails or if your neurological signs and symptoms, such as weakness in your arms or legs, are getting worse, you may need surgery. The surgical procedure will depend on your underlying condition, such as bone spurs or spinal stenosis.

Do’s and Do nots of Cervical spondylosis

  • Take a long, hot shower every day
  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers
  • Wear a cervical collar during the day
  • Regularly walk or engage in low-impact aerobic activity

Advice from your physician

Call your doctor if:

  • You have neck pain that doesn't respond to over-the-counter pain medications
  • The pain worsens
  • You develop numbness in your arms or legs

Without treatment, the signs and symptoms of cervical spondylosis may decrease or stabilize, or they may worsen. The goal of treatment is to relieve pain and prevent permanent injury to the spinal cord and nerves.

Written by: healthplus24.com team

Date last updated: February 20, 2016

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