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.
Cervical osteoarthritis; Arthritis - neck; Neck arthritis; Chronic neck pain; Degenerative disk disease
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 your arms, legs, and balance.
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:
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:
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, clumsiness of your hand, or other problems.
Other common symptoms are:
Less common symptoms are:
Your doctor and other health professionals can help you manage your pain so that you can stay active.
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.
James Harrop is a Neurosurgery doctor in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Dr. Harrop has been practicing medicine for over 27 years and is rated as an Elite doctor by MediFind in the treatment of Cervical Spondylosis. He is also highly rated in 22 other conditions, according to our data. His top areas of expertise are Cervical Spondylosis, Spondylolisthesis, Spinal Stenosis, and Spinal Cord Abscess. He is board certified in Neurosurgery and licensed to treat patients in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Dr. Harrop is currently accepting new patients.
Edward Benzel is a Neurosurgery doctor in Cleveland, Ohio. Dr. Benzel has been practicing medicine for over 47 years and is rated as an Elite doctor by MediFind in the treatment of Cervical Spondylosis. He is also highly rated in 18 other conditions, according to our data. His top areas of expertise are Cervical Spondylosis, Spinal Stenosis, Herniated Disk, and Spondylolisthesis. He is board certified in Neurosurgery and licensed to treat patients in Ohio. Dr. Benzel is currently accepting new patients.
Michael Fehlings is in Toronto, Canada. Fehlings is rated as an Elite expert by MediFind in the treatment of Cervical Spondylosis. He is also highly rated in 29 other conditions, according to our data. His top areas of expertise are Cervical Spondylosis, Spinal Tumor, Frontonasal Dysplasia Klippel Feil Syndrome, and Bone Tumor.
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.
This condition may lead to the following:
Contact your provider if:
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.
Ronthal M. Arm and neck pain. In: Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, Pomeroy SL, Newman NJ, eds. Bradley and Daroff's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 32.