Arthritis of the neck,
cervical spondylosis, or degenerative joint disease of the
- Cervical Spondylosis
is a degenerative process that affects the cervical spine.
- Cervical Spondylosis
is a condition that mainly affects older people, usually
over 40. Men are affected more than women. This condition
results from degenerative changes that occur in the cervical
spine (the part of the spine in the neck). Over time, the
degenerative changes lead to changes in the vertebra. This
can then cause nerve compression or inflammation.
- Symptoms depend on the location of
the nerve compression, but can include pain, numbness,
weakness, headaches, urinary problems, etc. Treatment is
usually with medications and use of a cervical collar.
However, if this fails, then surgery may be necessary.
- Initially the person may not have
- Others will have neck or shoulder
pain, headaches in the back of their head, or stiffness of
the neck. They may have difficulty turning or bending their
neck from side-to-side.
- Some will have pain that shoots down
a certain part of the arm. They may also notice numbness,
weakness, or pain in the arm. One or both sides may be
affected. Often it causes the hands to become clumsy.
- Some individuals will have numbness
or weakness in their legs. Many with this condition will
have decreased vibration-sense in their legs. They may be
unsteady while walking. In fact, spondylosis is a fairly
common cause of unsteadiness in the elderly.
- Others will have a specific level on
the chest or abdomen where there is a noticeable change in
- Problems with urination may occur.
Some will have to urinate more often, while others will have
to urinate urgently. A few will develop urinary
- The symptoms may get worse with
turning, extending, or bending the neck. In others, coughing
or straining may temporarily cause shooting pain in the arms
or shoulders or it may worsen weakness in the legs.
- Cervical Spondylosis is caused by degenerative changes that occur in the cervical spine over time. This can lead to a herniated disc, Calcium build-up
within the disc, or bony growths on the spine.
- These changes can then cause certain
nerves to become pinched, compressed, or inflamed.
- Also, depending on which way the
disc herniates or the direction of the bony growths, there
is a possibility that the spinal cord could be compressed.
- There is also the possibility that
the blood flow to certain nerves may be affected.
- Physical exam may reveal numbness or
pain along a certain nerve distribution. Certain muscles may
be weak and the reflexes not as brisk as normally. The
affected individual may have difficulty with turning the
neck or bending it from side to side. The arms or legs may
be stiff. The hands may be weak and the muscles of the hands
- X-Rays - can be helpful in making the diagnosis. However, though X-Ray findings of degenerative changes are often found in many older people, only a few will truly evidence the neurological changes caused by this condition. Alone, finding degenerative changes on X-Rays is not conclusive but
part of an overall determination of this condition that must
take into consideration other factors.
- CT scan - can be used to look at the
spinal column and see if there is any narrowing or other
- MRI - can also be used to look at
the spinal column and see if there is any narrowing or other
- Nerve conduction studies and Electromyography can
be done to test the nerves and muscles.
- Risk factors include any
degenerative process that may affect the cervical spine.
- The primary treatment for this condition is to restrict
neck movements. This is usually done with a cervical collar.
If a cervical collar is not sufficient, then a more rigid
brace for the neck may be necessary.
- If that does not work, then surgery to decompress the
nerve and stabilize the neck may be necessary. Surgery is
usually done if:
- Conservative measures such as a cervical collar do not
- There is severe pain.
- There are significant neurological deficits, such as
difficulty walking, severe hand weakness, or bladder
- There is compression of the spinal
- With any nerve condition, if it is
not treated early, there is a danger that the loss of nerve
function may be permanent. Nerves are very delicate. Once
they are injured beyond a certain point, they do not
recover. Therefore, the symptoms that can be caused by this
condition could become permanent if not treated
appropriately (i.e., numbness, weakness, urinary
- Seek medical attention.
- If there is a sudden onset of
numbness or weakness, then you must seek medical attention
immediately. If the nerve damage is severe, delay in
treatment may result in permanent loss of function.
- There is no specific way to prevent
this condition. However, good posture should be maintained.
- Also, avoid repetitive injuries to
the neck and cervical spine.
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Subacute combined degeneration
- Cervical strain
- Spinal cord tumors
- Cervical rib syndrome
- Brachial plexus neuropathies
- Acute cervical disc herniation
- Ankylosing Spondylitis
- Atlantoaxial subluxation
- Tropical spastic paresis
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