MediFind
Condition

Cervical Spondylosis

Symptoms, Doctors, Treatments, Research & More

Condition 101

What is the definition of Cervical Spondylosis?

Cervical spondylosis is a disorder in which there is wear on the cartilage (disks) and bones of the neck (cervical vertebrae). It is a common cause of chronic neck pain.

What are the alternative names for Cervical Spondylosis?

Cervical osteoarthritis; Arthritis - neck; Neck arthritis; Chronic neck pain; Degenerative disk disease

What are the causes for Cervical Spondylosis?

Cervical spondylosis is caused by aging and chronic wear on the cervical spine. This includes the disks or cushions between the neck vertebrae and the joints between the bones of the cervical spine. There may be abnormal growths or spurs on the bones of the spine (vertebrae).

Over time, these changes can press down on (compress) one or more of the nerve roots. In advanced cases, the spinal cord becomes involved. This can affect not just the arms, but the legs as well.

Everyday wear and tear may start these changes. People who are very active at work or in sports may be more likely to have them.

The major risk factor is aging. By age 60, most people show signs of cervical spondylosis on x-ray. Other factors that can make someone more likely to develop spondylosis are:

  • Being overweight and not exercising
  • Having a job that requires heavy lifting or a lot of bending and twisting
  • Past neck injury (often several years before)
  • Past spine surgery
  • Ruptured or slipped disk
  • Severe arthritis

What are the symptoms for Cervical Spondylosis?

Symptoms often develop slowly over time. But they may start or get worse suddenly. The pain may be mild, or it can be deep and so severe that you are unable to move.

You may feel the pain over the shoulder blade. It may spread to the upper arm, forearm, or fingers (in rare cases).

The pain may get worse:

  • After standing or sitting
  • At night
  • When you sneeze, cough, or laugh
  • When you bend the neck backward or twist your neck or walk more than a few yards or more than a few meters

You may also have weakness in certain muscles. Sometimes, you may not notice it until your doctor examines you. In other cases, you will notice that you have a hard time lifting your arm, squeezing tightly with one of your hands, or other problems.

Other common symptoms are:

  • Neck stiffness that gets worse over time
  • Numbness or abnormal sensations in the shoulders or arms
  • Headaches, especially in the back of the head
  • Pain on the inside of the shoulder blade and shoulder pain

Less common symptoms are:

  • Loss of balance
  • Pain or numbness in the legs
  • Loss of control over the bladder or bowels (if there is pressure on the spinal cord)

What are the current treatments for Cervical Spondylosis?

Your doctor and other health professionals can help you manage your pain so that you can stay active.

  • Your doctor may refer you for physical therapy. The physical therapist will help you reduce your pain using stretches. The therapist will teach you exercises that make your neck muscles stronger.
  • The therapist can also use neck traction to relieve some of the pressure in your neck.
  • You may also see a massage therapist, someone who performs acupuncture, or someone who does spinal manipulation (a chiropractor, osteopathic doctor, or physical therapist). Sometimes, a few visits will help with neck pain.
  • Cold packs and heat therapy may help your pain during flare-ups.

A type of talk therapy called cognitive behavioral therapy may be helpful if the pain is having a serious impact on your life. This technique helps you better understand your pain and teaches you how to manage it.

Medicines can help your neck pain. Your doctor may prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) for long-term pain control. Opioids may be prescribed if the pain is severe and does not respond to NSAIDs.

If the pain does not respond to these treatments, or you have a loss of movement or feeling, surgery is considered. Surgery is done to relieve the pressure on the nerves or spinal cord.

What is the outlook (prognosis) for Cervical Spondylosis?

Most people with cervical spondylosis have some long-term symptoms. These symptoms improve with non-surgical treatment and do not need surgery.

Many people with this problem are able to maintain an active life. Some people will have to live with chronic (long-term) pain.

What are the possible complications for Cervical Spondylosis?

This condition may lead to the following:

  • Inability to hold in feces (fecal incontinence) or urine (urinary incontinence)
  • Loss of muscle function or feeling
  • Permanent disability (occasionally)
  • Poor balance

When should I contact a medical professional for Cervical Spondylosis?

Call your provider if:

  • The condition becomes worse
  • There are signs of complications
  • You develop new symptoms (such as loss of movement or feeling in an area of the body)
  • You lose control of your bladder or bowels (call right away)
Skeletal
Cervical

REFERENCES

Fast A, Dudkiewicz I. Cervical degenerative disease. In: Frontera WR, Silver JK, Rizzo TD, Jr., eds. Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 3.

Kshettry VR. Cervical spondylosis. In: Steinmetz, MP, Benzel EC, eds. Benzel's Spine Surgery. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 96.

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Latest Research

Latest Advance
Study
  • Condition: Multilevel Cervical Spondylosis
  • Journal: The bone & joint journal
  • Treatment Used: Hybrid Surgery (HS) vs. Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion (ACDF)
  • Number of Patients: 861
  • Published —
This review of the literature compared hybrid surgery (HS) versus anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) in the treatment of patients with multilevel cervical disc degeneration.
Latest Advance
Study
  • Condition: Cervical Radiculopathy and/or Myelopathu
  • Journal: BMC musculoskeletal disorders
  • Treatment Used: Cervical Disc Arthroplasty (CDA)
  • Number of Patients: 126
  • Published —
This study evaluated the effect of preoperative segmental range of motion on patient outcomes in cervical disc arthroplasty.

Clinical Trials

Clinical Trial
Other
  • Status: Not yet recruiting
  • Study Type: Other
  • Participants: 448
  • Start Date: January 2021
The NOTICE Study: Neurosurgery and OrThopedIcs Communication Evaluation Study Following Lumbar Fusions
Clinical Trial
Device
  • Status: Not yet recruiting
  • Study Type: Device
  • Participants: 90
  • Start Date: October 1, 2020
Clinical Evaluation for Digital Acupuncture Manipulation Therapeutic Instrument