Cervical spondylosis and radiculopathy are two medical terms that are often linked together in medical literature. That’s because spondylosis frequently causes radiculopathy in patients. To understand the relationship between cervical spondylosis and radiculopathy, we must first examine what the conditions are, and how they affect the people afflicted with them.
What is cervical spondylosis?
Spondylosis is a general term for degeneration of the spine as a person ages. Cervical spondylosis, then, is a degenerative condition that affects the vertebrae and soft tissues in the cervical portion of the spine (the neck).
When people get older, they start to lose moisture and elasticity in the soft tissues of the back: tendons, ligaments and especially the gel-filled cartilage pads (discs) that act as cushions between vertebrae. As these discs dry out, they become more fragile, and cracks and fissures can form. If the discs become damaged enough, conditions like disc herniation and degenerative disc disease can develop.
Spondylosis also usually involves the wearing away of cartilage around spinal joints. Early in life, these joints are wrapped in protective membranes of cartilage to keep the bones of the joint from grinding against each other. Once that protective layer is worn, these bones can easily sustain damage. As the bones try to repair themselves, they can develop osteophytes, also known as bone spurs, which are abnormal protrusions from the bone.
How does cervical spondylosis cause radiculopathy?
Like the word spondylosis, radiculopathy is a catch-all term for a general condition. Radiculopathy is the medical term for the pain and other symptoms resulting from a compressed nerve root. For example, sciatica is a well-known form of radiculopathy that affects the lower back and the legs, and it is caused by the compression of nerve roots connected to the sciatic nerve in the lumbar spine (lower back).
As the discs and bones in the cervical spine degenerate, they can also cause compression to nerve roots. This can be due to the fluid from a prolapsed disc putting pressure on a nerve, or from a condition called spinal stenosis, in which the spinal column actually narrows. Bone spurs also cause pressure on nerves as bones begin to intrude in places where they were not meant to be.
People with radiculopathy from cervical spondylosis may experience stiffness and pain in their necks, tingling or numbness in their shoulders or arms or pain in their shoulders, arms and chests. These symptoms may get better with exercise and usually respond to prescription or over-the-counter anti-inflammatory and pain killing medications.
If cervical spondylosis and radiculopathy are limiting your quality of life, contact Laser Spine Institute. Our minimally invasive outpatient procedures may be able to help you find meaningful relief from neck pain.