Cervical spondylosis (arthritis of the neck) is a degenerative condition that develops as we age and affects the vertebral disc and facet joints. Over time, many people experience degenerative changes of the spine, such as this common type of arthritis. In fact, spondylosis is the most widely seen type of osteoarthritis of the neck, affecting more than 85 percent of the 60+ population in the United States.
Neck pain can occur for many different reasons, including wear and tear, trauma, and injury. In the case of spondylosis, the main culprit is simple: age. Since the majority of older Americans experience this type of osteoarthritis, today we are going to take a closer look at the common causes and treatments of spondylosis.
Symptoms of Spondylosis
The human body is a complex network of muscles, tissue, ligaments, bones, cells, and more. As we get older, it is natural for these parts to degenerate. This is exactly what happens when spondylosis is present. The discs and joints located within the neck (cervical spine) succumb to age, resulting in a wide range of unpleasant symptoms. However, in many cases people do not realize they have spondylosis because their symptoms are so mild. This can make the common type of osteoarthritis difficult to diagnose.
If symptoms are present, they may include the following:
- Neck pain
- Neck stiffness
- Scapular or shoulder pain
- Pain that worsens when looking up or down
- Grinding or popping noise when neck is turned
- Narrowing of the spine (spinal stenosis)
- Muscle spasms
- Loss of balance
- Difficulty walking
If you are experiencing any of the above, we encourage you to schedule an appointment with Dr. Atwater. Through a physical examination and x-rays, an MRI or CT, or another test, we will be able to determine if you are suffering from spondylosis. Generally, surgery is not required when treating osteoarthritis of the spine. We will discuss some of the most effective ways to treat spondylosis a little later, but please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions.
Common Causes of Spondylosis
There are 24 important bones in the spine that not only provide structure, support, and stability, but house the majority of the body’s nerve branches. The cervical spine is comprised of seven important bones that make up the neck, which is where spondylosis can develop. In between the vertebrae are the facet joints (they help the spine move) and discs that protect these bones. With age, the discs between the vertebrae can become thinner, resulting in osteoarthritis and other conditions. While daily wear and tear is the main cause of spondylosis, there are risk factors that may increase your chance of developing this type of arthritis:
- Lack of physical activity
- Having undergone spinal surgery
Thankfully, the majority of spondylosis cases are mild and carry minimal symptoms. This means that spondylosis often does not require treatment.
In the event you are experiencing pain or stiffness, there are a handful of effective at-home treatment solutions you may want to try:
- Low-impact exercises and other physical activity that will strengthen and support the spine
- Over-the-counter pain medication can help with inflammation-related pain
- Good posture can also help with the pain, as slouching has been known to make the pain more severe
- Supporting the back with a good chair and/or mattress can also help reduce symptoms
If you are still experiencing pain after trying the above at-home remedies, the following alternative treatments may be the next step:
- Chiropractic adjustments
- Ultrasound treatment
- Physical therapy
- Electrical stimulation
These treatments are often ideal for people who are experience nerve pain or damage because of spondylosis. We would be happy to provide a recommendation for a good physical therapist or discuss the other treatment options with you, if you would like. The type of treatment that will work best for you will depend on a host of factors, including medical history, age, and the current state of your spine. Please contact OSA to schedule an appointment with Dr. Atwater today to discuss any spondylosis concerns.