A pain in your neck might be more than just stress. Cervical spondylosis is a disorder in which there is abnormal wear on the cartilage and bones of the neck. Cervical spondylosis is caused by chronic wearing away of the cervical spine, including the cushions between the neck vertebrae and the joints between the bones of the cervical spine. Abnormal growths or "spurs" on the bones of the spine may be present.
The major risk factor is aging. By age 60, most men and women show signs of cervical spondylosis on X-ray.
Other factors that can make a person more likely to develop spondylosis are:
- Past neck injury.
- Severe arthritis.
- Past spinal surgery.
Common symptoms include:
- Neck pain (may radiate to the arms or shoulder).
- Neck stiffness that gets worse over time.
- Loss of sensation or abnormal sensations in the shoulders, arms, or legs.
- Weakness of the arms or legs.
- Headaches, particularly in the back of the head.
Less common symptoms include:
- Loss of balance.
- Loss of control over the bladder or bowels.
Examinations often show limited ability to bend your head toward the shoulder and rotate the head. Weakness or loss of sensation can be signs of damage to specific nerve roots or to the spinal cord. Reflexes are often reduced.
The following tests may be performed:
- CT scan or spine MRI.
- Spine or neck X-ray.
- X-ray or CT scan after dye is injected into the spinal column.
Even if your neck pain does not go away completely, or it gets more painful at times, learning to take care of your back and prevent repeat episodes of your back pain can help you avoid surgery.
Symptoms from cervical spondylosis usually stabilize or get better with simple, conservative therapy, including:
- Anti-inflammatory medications.
- Narcotic medicine or muscle relaxants.
- Physical therapy.
- Cortisone injections to specific areas of the spine.
- Various other medications to help with chronic pain.
If the pain does not respond to these measures, or there is a loss of movement or feeling, surgery may be considered. Surgery is done to relieve the pressure on the nerves or the spinal cord.