Cervical spondylosis is a progressive condition affecting the cervical spine present in the neck. Symptoms include pain and stiffness in neck, numbness and tingling sensations and poor control on bowel and bladder. Diagnosis is done through imaging techniques and neurological examination.
Following are the types of cervical spondylosis:
- Cervical spondylosis without radiculopathy or myelopathy: This type of cervical spondylosis is characterized by the presence of neck pain and there are no symptoms of pain in the arms.
- Cervical spondylosis with radiculopathy: The symptoms of this cervical spondylosis are the presence of neck pain radiating into the arms. This is due to the damage in the nearby nerve.
- Cervical spondylosis with myelopathy: This type of cervical spondylosis causes neck pain, as well as the disk degeneration, causes compression of the nerve cord.
- Normal wearing and tearing due to age
- Wrong posture for a long time
- Injury to neck
- Putting an extra strain on neck such as in gymnastics
- Pain and neck stiffness
- Lack of control over bladder and bowel movement
- Tingling sensation and numbness in peripheral organs such as arms and legs.
- Reduced range of motion and difficulty walking
- Abnormal reflexes
- Muscle spasm
Ways to diagnose
Following are the diagnostic test available for the diagnosis of cervical spondylosis:
- Imaging techniques: Various imaging techniques are required to analyze the causes of cervical spondylosis and also to diagnose the extent of the damage. X-ray of the neck is done to identify any spur or herniation of the disc. MRI can be done to analyze the cause of pain as it may help in identifying the compression of nerves. CT scan and myelography are also done to diagnose cervical spondylosis.
- Neurological tests: Neurological tests such as nerve condition study is done to evaluate the extent of nerve damage.
Risks if neglect
Following complications may occur if the symptoms and progression of cervical spondylosis are not managed:
- Pressure sores: Patients with cervical spondylosis have increased the risk of developing pressure sores. Factors which are responsible for increased risk are reduced mobility, use of medical devices, malnutrition, and presence of other medical conditions. Pressure sores also increase the patient’s discomforts and add on to the already occurring pain due to cervical spondylosis.
- Tetraplegia: Tetraplegia is a complication of cervical spondylosis, which causes loss of neurological functions in all the four limbs.
- Cervical myelopathy: Cervical myelopathy along with the cervical spondylosis is called as cervical spondylotic myelopathy. This is a progressive condition which severely hampers the movement. The symptoms present by the patient includes neck pain, reduced motions, weakness, loss of control on upper limbs and urinary emergency.
- Paraplegia: In paraplegia, the patient loses control of the sensation in lower limbs.
Following are the stages of cervical spondylosis:
- Early stage: This is the initial stage of cervical spondylosis and the patient either does not have any symptoms or presents mild symptoms. The patient may suffer from neck, shoulder and back pain and may also have neck stiffness. During this stage, the doctor tries to manage the symptoms by changing the routine posture of the patient and usually prescribe painkillers for the administration when required.
- Dysfunctional stage: This phase characterizes the abnormal motion in the cervical spine. Cartilage degeneration and inflammation in the synovial fluid occurs in this stage. Ligament injuries and weakness also occur in this stage. There is a negative neuro examination and the patient at this stage presents a non-specific neck pain.
- Unstable stage: This stage is presented by progressive symptoms such as stiffness in the joints in a particular spine segment. Also, the degeneration that starts in the dysfunctional stage progresses in this stage and may result in disc herniation. There is an increased occurrence of osteophytes which compresses the nerves leading to radicular symptoms.
- Stabilization stage: This stage is characterized by further degeneration of disc leading to decreased ranges of motion. Stiff muscles and pain in the neck are the symptoms presented by the patient. There is a further compression of nerve roots.
Foods to eat and avoid
Foods to eat:
- Fruit juices
- Fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids
- Lemon juice
- Vegetable salad
Foods to avoid:
- Red meat
- Sweet potatoes
- Fried food
- Oily food
- Spicy food
- Refined food
- Incorporate exercise in your daily routine especially yoga and meditation.
- Manage stress as it may increase the sensation of pain.
- Maintain a good posture, while walking, sleeping or sitting.
- Sleep on a hard and comfortable bed.
- Do not twist your neck to the back prior to moving your feet.
- Avoid sudden and jerky neck movements.
- Avoid strain on the neck for a longer time.
- Consult your doctor in case of chronic neck pain.
When to see a doctor
Book an appointment with your doctor if:
- You feel pain and stiffness in the neck.
- Your neck pain lasts for more than 14 days.
- You have difficulty turning the neck.
- Your pain progresses from mild to moderate to severe.
- You have neck pain that is graduating from shoulders to hands.
- You have any other symptoms such as swollen lymph nodes in the neck which makes you concerned.
Do’s & Don’ts
- Always maintain good posture.
- Keep your computer at the eye level.
- Keep away from stress.
- Consult a healthcare professional if the pain in neck lasts for more than 2 weeks.
- Perform exercises especially of neck including yoga and meditation.
- Sleep on a hard and comfortable bed.
- Take pain-relieving medications as prescribed.
- Do not smoke.
- Do not give more strain to your neck.
- Do not tilt your neck to one side while talking on the phone.
- Do not bend your neck for a long time such as while watching television.
- Do not mobilize your bone when it is stiff.
- Do not make any sudden and jerky movement.
Risks for specific people
Patient with older age and physical inactivity are more prone to develop cervical spondylosis. People who smoke and are overweight may also at higher risk of developing cervical spondylosis. A person who have work-related neck strain or who have a family history of this condition are at significant risk for contracting cervical spondylosis.