Cervical Spondylosis: Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment

by Johnny Jacks

Cervical spondylosis is a degeneration caused by aging that affects the spinal discs in the neck. As the discs lose water and shrink, signs of bone and joint inflammation develop. Cervical spondylosis is very common and worsens with age, with over 85% of people over 60 years old affected.

What is cervical spondylosis?

Cervical spondylosis is a common chronic condition that affects the vertebrae and discs in the neck as well as the spinal canal. The disease progresses slowly and is commonly seen in older adults and those in occupations related to physical posture. Patients can experience degeneration in all seven cervical vertebrae, although the most common sites of cervical spondylosis are C5, C6, and C7.

Chronic cervical spondylosis is the most common cause of spinal cord and nerve root compression. However, it typically does not lead to disability.

What is cervical spondylosis?

What is cervical spondylosis?

Causes of cervical spondylosis

Cervical spondylosis is the accumulation of changes and degeneration in the bones and joints that commonly occurs in older people. The majority of cases are due to degeneration or herniation of the intervertebral discs.

Repeated trauma, especially in individuals with activities that put increased pressure on the head, can lead to cervical spondylosis. The condition can also occur in those who frequently sleep in incorrect positions, use computers extensively, have sedentary lifestyles, or frequently sit in a prolonged posture.

Cervical spondylosis can be caused by the aging of cartilage, cells, joint tissues, muscles, ligaments or the nervous system around the joint.

Additionally, cervical spondylosis may result from inadequate nutrition supply to the bones and joints, congenital vertebral malformations from birth, or genetic factors.

How is cervical spondylosis diagnosed?

Currently, there is no standard method to diagnose cervical spondylosis, so we rely on the clinical symptoms and signs of the patient.

Cervical spondylosis has a wide range of symptoms, mainly including pain and stiffness. Depending on the location of the damage, the patient may have one of the following four main syndromes:

Cervical spine syndrome, in which the patient often experiences pain and stiffness, or chronic muscle spasms around the cervical spine. This pain will increase when the patient maintains a straight or bent-down position for a long time. In addition, the patient often feels tired, tense, has tender points around the cervical spine, and limited cervical spine mobility.

Cervical nerve root syndrome, in which the patient will feel pain from the neck down to the arm, or up to the neck area. Especially, the pain is worse when coughing, sneezing or sitting for a long time. The patient feels deep bone and joint pain, pain around the joints, and in some cases, may experience dizziness, a sensation of seeing spots, numbness in the limbs or fingers, and sometimes muscle weakness or atrophy.

Cervical artery syndrome often has symptoms of headache in the occipital, temporal, forehead and eye sockets, with pain mainly in the morning. Usually, the patient has pain in a certain position of the head, sometimes accompanied by dizziness, ringing in the ears, blurred vision, difficulty swallowing, and earache.

Spinal cord syndrome is characterized by unstable gait, difficulty in movement, abnormal sensations in the hands, feet or whole body, and sometimes muscle weakness or paralysis. The patient may have muscle atrophy in the hands, disorders in the movement of both hands or feet, or both, and some may have disorders in the circular muscles.

In addition, cervical spondylosis can also make patients irritable, change their personality, disrupt sleep, and reduce work performance.

To diagnose cervical spondylosis through its abnormal signs, the patient needs to undergo diagnostic imaging methods such as: regular X-ray of the cervical spine, CT scan, or MRI.

It is necessary to distinguish cervical spondylosis from cervical spine and intervertebral disc injuries due to trauma, malignant or benign bone disease, or myelopathy.

Cervical spondylosis causes headaches

Cervical spondylosis causes headaches.

Method for treating cervical spondylosis

In the treatment of cervical spondylosis, patients need to combine internal medicine treatment and functional rehabilitation. Depending on the patient’s condition, surgical intervention on the cervical spine can be considered.

Internal medicine treatment for cervical spondylosis

The goal of internal medicine treatment for cervical spondylosis is to reduce the incidence and prevent possible complications.

To alleviate pain in patients with cervical spondylosis, Acetaminophen is preferred based on its effectiveness and minimal side effects. If the patient experiences severe pain or does not experience pain relief after taking the aforementioned medication, central analgesics such as cocaine or Dextropropoxiphene may be combined.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are also used to treat cervical spondylosis. If there is no improvement after two weeks of NSAID treatment, patients should switch to another medication. The most commonly used NSAIDs are Ibuprofen, Acetylsalicylic acid, Naproxen, Indomethacin, Meloxicam, and Piroxicam.

Patients with cervical spondylosis can take glucosamine sulfate to reduce pain, increase synovial fluid and regenerate cartilage, at a dose of 1500mg/day, which can be combined with Chondroitin sulfate.

Corticosteroids have strong anti-inflammatory properties, so injecting glucocorticoid into the cervical spine can be a treatment option for patients with cervical spondylosis. However, these patients should not receive more than three injections in the same cervical joint per year.

When the aforementioned treatment methods fail, patients can be treated with Tramadol or opioids, but long-term use should be avoided.

In addition, patients with cervical spondylosis can be prescribed Capsaicin, Methylsalicylate, or muscle relaxants such as Tolperisone HCl and Eperisone HCl.

Treatment of cervical spondylosis

Treatment of cervical spondylosis.

Restoring function for patients with cervical spondylosis

Immobilization of the cervical spine is a conservative treatment for patients with severe cervical spondylosis and muscular signs. This limits cervical motion, thereby reducing nerve stimulation. At the same time, exercises for the cervical area can help limit muscle atrophy, especially in patients with prolonged cervical compression.

Cervical spine spondylosis can be treated with cervical and upper back traction, massage to reduce pain, increase joint mobility or adjust the spine. However, this method should not be used with patients who have severe muscular symptoms, serious degeneration, bone fractures, or joint dislocations, or infections.

Passive treatment methods for cervical spondylosis often involve applying heat to cervical tissues using tools such as surface devices – heat-holding bags or devices with deep heat transfer mechanisms such as ultrasound or electric heat.

Cervical spondylosis – surgical intervention

Surgical intervention for patients with cervical spondylosis is as follows: Internal treatment and functional recovery do not bring about effectiveness, compressing nerve roots or severe spinal cord, slipping the 3rd or 4th vertebrae.

The purpose of surgery is to reduce pain and decompress nervous tissue structures, as well as achieve stable cervical spine function.

After treatment, patients with cervical spondylosis need to be regularly re-examined every month during the acute phase, and then annually.

How to prevent cervical spondylosis?

First of all, to prevent cervical spondylosis, we need a healthy diet that supplements the necessary nutrients for bones and joints. At the same time, it is necessary to control weight appropriately to reduce pressure and prevent joint diseases.

Along with that, a reasonable lifestyle and exercise are also very important to prevent the risk of cervical spondylosis, exercising the neck with suitable exercises.

Do not carry heavy objects on your shoulders or head, bend your back to carry heavy objects, or twist your neck abruptly. Also, do not sit or lie down in one position for too long and use a suitable head pillow.

Above are some basic information about the causes, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of cervical spondylosis, hoping to be helpful to readers.

Related Posts