The neck (cervical) part of the spinal column is made of seven bones called vertebrae. Discs separate the bones and act as shock absorbers or cushions to let the neck bend. Cervical spondylosis is a disorder that occurs with aging and causes neck pain. It’s also called cervical osteoarthritis.
The disorder usually occurs in people older than 50 because of the wear and tear of aging. It involves arthritis in the neck and may put pressure on the nerves or spinal cord.
Symptoms include pain in the neck, shoulder blades, arm, hand, and fingers. Weakness in the arms may develop slowly. Numbness and tingling in arms, hands, and fingers, stiff neck, and headaches in back of the head also occur.
The health care provider will make a diagnosis from an examination and x-rays of the cervical spine. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the neck and an electromyogram/nerve conduction velocity test may also be done. This electrical test of nerves and muscles can help tell the extent to which the nerves are damaged.
A collar or neck brace to limit neck motion usually helps the pain. Using the collar too long will weaken neck muscles, however.
Rest and medicines (analgesics and antiinflammatory drugs) are used for acute pain. Muscle relaxants are used sparingly and only for short periods.
After the pain leaves, neck exercises are started and are used with the collar. Exercises to move the neck help increase motion and strength. Traction may help some people. Spinal manipulation is not suggested for this disorder.
Surgery is rarely needed. It is considered after other treatments don’t work to relieve pressure on the nerves or spinal cord.
Contact the following sources: