Learn About Cervical Spondylosis

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.

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What are the alternative names for Cervical Spondylosis?

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

What are the causes of 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 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:

  • 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 of 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, clumsiness of your hand, 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)
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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.

Who are the top Cervical Spondylosis Local Doctors?
Highly rated in

Jefferson University Physicians

Philadelphia, PA 

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.

Highly rated in

Cleveland Clinic

Cleveland, OH 

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.

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Highly rated in

University Of Toronto

Toronto, ON, CA 

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.

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 of 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?

Contact 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 spine
Cervical spondylosis
What are the latest Cervical Spondylosis Clinical Trials?
Intraoperative Methadone for Postoperative Pain Management in Spinal Fusion Surgery: a Prospective, Double-blind, Randomised Controlled Trial
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Economic Evaluation of Anterior Cervical Discectomy With Arthroplasty Versus Anterior Cervical Discectomy With Fusion in the Surgical Treatment of Cervical Degenerative Disc Disease, a Randomized Controlled Trial
What are the Latest Advances for Cervical Spondylosis?
Investigation on the mechanisms of guiqi huoxue capsule for treating cervical spondylosis based on network pharmacology and molecular docking.
Effect of acupuncture on pain-emotion related brain regions in patients with cervical spondylosis of cervical type: a fMRI study.
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Bariatric surgery diminishes spinal diagnoses in a morbidly obese population: A 2-year survivorship analysis of cervical and lumbar pathologies.
What are our references for Cervical Spondylosis?

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.