Spondylosis, also known as cervical spondylosis, is a general term to describe musculoskeletal conditions that affect the spinal disks in your neck. It is the general degeneration occurring in the joints, cartilage, ligaments, bones, and disks of the spine. It occurs as a result of gradual age-related wear and tear. It is a highly common condition that is more prevalent in the older population (over the age of 60).
This condition is also popularly known as arthritis or osteoarthritis of the neck.
Spondylosis symptoms are not very obvious. In several cases, the signs and symptoms are not present at all. In people who experience the effects of this wear and tear, spondylosis symptoms can be seen as:
- Pain in the neck
- Stiffness in the neck
Additionally, spondylosis can lead to the narrowing of the space in the spinal cord which can further escalate to the narrowing of nerve roots that pass through the spine to the rest of the body. In such cases, you can experience additional symptoms which are:
- Tingling, weakness and numbness sensation in the arms, legs, hands and feet
- Difficulty in coordination
- Difficulty walking
- Loss of bladder control
The primary reason behind spondylosis is the degeneration associated with ageing. Different types of age-related changes occur due to varying reasons.
Common causes of the changes that occur due to spondylosis are:
- Dehydrated disks – Over time, the cartilage between the spinal disks can begin to dry and shrink leading to increased friction between the bones.
- Herniated disks – The exterior of the disks can also be impacted due to age. These changes appear in the form of cracks leading to bulging disks that can press on the spinal cord.
- Bone spurs – Disk degeneration can also lead to an extra amount of bone which can pinch the spinal cord
Anyone can develop cervical spondylosis while some individuals have a great risk. Common risk factors include:
- Advanced age
- Jobs that require repetitive motions and awkward posture
- Neck injuries
- Genetic factors
If you are experiencing the above-given signs and symptoms, your doctor will order a range of tests and procedures to help diagnose your condition. Your doctor will start by doing a physical health check. He/she will check the range of motion of your neck. Your reflexes and muscle strength will also be checked. Your doctor will also ask you to walk to examine your spinal compression and its effects.
After a physical health check, your doctor will order the following tests and procedures:
- Neck X-ray
- CT scan
- Nerve function tests
Several factors are taken into consideration while planning spondylosis treatment. Your doctor will first aim to relieve your symptoms such as alleviating pain.
The objective of the treatment is to help restore normal functioning of the neck as well as prevent permanent damage or injury. Common treatment methods that are used for cervical spondylosis are:
- Muscle relaxants
- Physical therapy
- Surgery to remove a herniated disk or bone spurs
- Surgery to remove part of a vertebra
- Surgery to fuse a segment of the neck using bone graft and hardware