What Are The Symptoms Of And Risk Factors For Cervical Spondylosis?

cervical spondylosis

Cervical spondylosis is a common cause of neck pain. It’s considered an age-related condition and is caused by wear and tear of the cervical vertebrae. However, recently there has been a rise in this condition in younger patients. [1]

People in their 30s can also develop the symptoms of cervical spondylosis. It’s good to know the signs and symptoms of this condition as well as the factors that can put you at risk of developing it. 

What is cervical spondylosis?

Cervical spondylosis is an age-related degenerative condition affecting the discs and joints in the cervical spine or the neck. It is also called neck arthritis or cervical osteoarthritis. [2]

Cervical spondylosis occurs due to wear and tear on the bones and cartilage in the cervical vertebrae. It is estimated that 90 percent of men and women over 60 years old develop cervical spondylosis. [3] [4]

Some patients do not experience any symptoms while some may develop severe pain that restricts their routine activities. [5]

While this condition is known to occur because of aging, it may also be caused by other factors, especially bad posture. Keep reading to learn the common signs and symptoms of cervical spondylosis and the factors responsible for it. 

What are the causes of cervical spondylosis? 

1. Aging

The cervical vertebrae are the bones forming the vertebral column in the neck and include the protective cartilage surrounding them. They are prone to degenerative changes. These tissues undergo constant wear and tear throughout the life of a person.

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As we age, the degeneration of these bones, cartilage, and the discs between the vertebrae can result in cervical spondylosis. 

2. Bone spurs

Bone spurs are overgrowths or abnormal enlargements of bone tissues. An outgrowth usually occurs as the body tries to repair damaged or inflamed tissue..

The extra bone tissue can compress the delicate parts of the spine, including the spinal cord and nerves causing pain. The compression of the nerve may result in tingling and numbness along the course of the nerve. [6]

3. Dehydrating discs

The spinal vertebrae have thick discs between them. These discs provide a cushion and absorb shock while twisting, lifting, and performing other activities. 

These discs help to protect your bones and joint tissues against injuries. The discs have a gel-like material that provides lubrication for ensuring smooth movements of the discs over the vertebrae without causing pain or friction. 

However, the production of this gel may reduce with age as a result of which the discs dry out. This can result in increased friction between the vertebrae.

Bones rubbing against each other accelerates the degenerative changes that trigger cervical spondylosis. 

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4. Herniated discs

The discs between cervical vertebrae may develop cracks allowing the gel and cushioning material to leak out.

The protrusion of the discs and the cushioning material can create pressure on the nerves and spinal cord resulting in the symptoms of cervical spondylosis. 

Patients with herniated discs may develop numbness in their arms and shoulders along with pain radiating down the arm. 

5. Injury

Neck injuries can cause damage to the cervical vertebrae. An injury can speed up the aging processes and increase the risk of developing cervical spondylosis. 

6. Muscle stiffness

When your neck moves, the muscles in your neck and shoulders provide support to your cervical vertebrae. Tough cords called ligaments connect the spinal vertebrae, provide support to these bones and assist in movement.

Stiff muscles and ligaments can interfere with the smooth movement of the joints making the neck feel tight. This can be an early sign of cervical spondylosis. [7]

Muscle stiffness is common in people who sit in front of a laptop or desktop for several hours a day. The lack of adequate movements of the neck while working can cause stiffness of the muscles and ligaments thereby increasing the risk of cervical spondylosis. [8

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7. Overuse

Overuse can accelerate degenerative changes in your neck and can contribute to the development of cervical spondylosis. Some activities, like lifting heavy objects, can cause or worsen damage to the neck joints.

The overuse of the cervical joints can put extra pressure on the spinal column causing early wear and tear. Holding your neck in an uncomfortable position for several hours at a stretch can also cause repetitive stress and increase the risk of cervical spondylosis. [9] [10]

What are the symptoms of cervical spondylosis?

The common symptom of cervical spondylosis is pain in your neck and shoulders. The pain usually increases while standing, sitting, and tilting your neck backward.

In severe cases, patients may feel a sharp pain in the neck radiating to the arm, especially while coughing or sneezing. [11]

Some other symptoms of cervical spondylosis include:

  • Stiffness of the neck
  • Frequent headaches 
  • Tingling and numbness in the shoulders and arms
  • Loss of balance 
  • Inability to turn the head and bend the neck fully
  • Grinding sensation or noise while turning the neck 

Conclusion

Consciously maintaining good posture ensures adequate support to the neck and back. Performing neck exercises can also help to reduce muscle stiffness and improve joint mobility. 

These tips will help to minimize the degenerative changes in the cervical vertebra and slow down the progress of cervical spondylosis. 

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References: 

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1819511/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK551557/
  3. https://www.webmd.com/osteoarthritis/cervical-osteoarthritis-cervical-spondylosis
  4. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17685-cervical-spondylosis
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3116771/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK551557/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2528269/
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3789159/
  9. https://www.medscape.com/answers/1144952-103967/what-are-the-risk-factors-for-cervical-spondylosis
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4264061/
  11. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cervical-spondylosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20370787

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