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What Is Cervical Spondylosis?

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.

What Causes Cervical Spondylosis?

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.

What Are the Symptoms of Cervical Spondylosis?

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.

How Is Cervical Spondylosis Diagnosed?

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.

How Is Cervical Spondylosis Treated?

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.

DOs and DON’Ts in Managing Cervical Spondylosis:

  • DO rest, immobilize your neck, and take medicines (analgesics and antiinflammatory drugs) as directed for acute pain.
  • DO exercises that focus on active neck motion and strengthening.
  • DO gently stretch and bend your neck.
  • DO maintain good posture while sitting and walking.
  • DO wear a seat belt when in a motor vehicle.
  • DO minimize trauma to your cervical spine.
  • DO avoid contact sports.
  • DO exercise regularly and keep to your ideal body weight.
  • DO call your health care provider if rest and medicine don’t help pain. Call immediately if you have sudden muscle weakness or paralysis.
  • DO call your health care provider if you have medicine side effects.
  • DO call your health care provider if you have trouble walking, are weak, or cannot move your limbs.
  • DON’T have spinal manipulations if you have acute pain.
  • DON’T make your neck “pop.”
  • DON’T slouch in a chair or bed.
  • DON’T do strenuous activities until your health care provider says you can.
  • DON’T resume driving until you’re pain free without pain drugs.

Contact the following sources:

  • North American Spine Society
  • American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
    Tel: (847) 823-7186

Copyright © 2016 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc.

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