The best way to think about cervical spondylosis is as a catch-all term that is commonly used by medical professionals to describe age-related wear and tear to the discs and soft tissues in the cervical region of the spine, which is located in the neck. Spondylosis is especially common in people over the age of 50 and is associated with a number of degenerative spine conditions. Yet, the good news when it comes to spondylosis and other degenerative spine conditions is that there are a number of treatments currently available. The key is identifying the location and extent of the spinal degeneration with the assistance of a physician.
How cervical spondylosis develops
As we grow older, we all will naturally experience degeneration in the bones, joints, muscles and other soft tissues. This is an entirely normal part of the aging process, and it occurs all over the body. It is entirely unavoidable and something we all must deal with when we get older. As degeneration begins on the spine, it can affect the discs that cushion and separate the vertebrae, leading to the formation of cracks and fissures in the disc walls. Degeneration can also lead to the thinning and flattening of the discs themselves. This can cause a host of problems, including bulging discs, herniated discs and pinched nerves, which in turn cause pain as the nerves are irritated by these spinal abnormalities. This distinction is important because in many cases the most severe symptoms that arise as a result of spondylosis are a direct result of the compression of a spinal nerve root or even the spinal cord itself.
Another component of cervical spondylosis involves the wearing away of the cartilage that protects the facet joints. These synovial joints, which are situated between individual vertebrae, are essential because they allow the spine to bend and flex. As cartilage coating the facet joints naturally deteriorates with time, the exposed bones of these joints may rub together, causing pain, stiffness and damage. As the bones try to heal themselves, they can also develop bone spurs, which can intrude on nerves and result in painful nerve irritation.
Symptoms of cervical spondylosis
One of the interesting things about spondylosis is that while it is a common condition, many people don’t realize they have it. That’s because the onset of spondylosis is gradual. This is a degenerative disorder with symptoms that set in slowly over time. Some common symptoms of cervical spondylosis include:
- Stiffness and pain in the neck and shoulders, especially upon waking
- Loss of coordination and slow reflexes
- Muscle weakness
- Tingling or numbness in the arms, hands, or shoulders
Cervical spondylosis treatment
Treatment for cervical spondylosis varies widely depending on the severity of the individual’s condition. For most people, however, conservative treatments like physical activity, low-impact exercises, behavior modification, over-the-counter pain and anti-inflammatory medications and heat and ice therapy are sufficient to relieve symptoms and increase mobility. What works for one patient may not work for another, though, so it is always important to enlist the assistance of a medical professional when developing a comprehensive treatment plan. Having the right expectations is also important because treatment may take several weeks or months to be successful. Additionally, if the symptoms become debilitating or stop responding to conservative pain management measures, surgery may become an option.
Laser Spine Institute offers more effective alternatives to traditional open spine surgery, and our minimally invasive techniques have helped tens of thousands of people find relief from cervical spondylosis pain. Contact us today to learn more about our outpatient procedures, or for a review of your MRI or CT scan.