Cervical Spondylosis PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 15 March 2011 08:28



Cervical spondylosis is a progressive degeneration of the intervertebral discs. The discs are soft tissue structures between the bones of the neck. As the discs degenerate, they lose their capacity to handle the normal stresses on the neck. The discs also gradually lose height and this leads to gradual narrowing of the disc space.


Although a natural, age-related phenomenon, this condition may cause problems if there is concomitant nerve or spinal cord compression by a disc herniation(like a slipped disc) or if there are arthritic changes that occur in the small joints of the neck bones. Compression of the nerves results in a condition called“radiculopathy” while compression of the spinal cord itself causes“myelopathy”.

Signs and Symptoms:

There is neck pain that may be associated with stiffness. Radiculopathy results in pain that
radiates (“runs down”) to the upper arm and/or forearm. There could also be radiation to the back of the head resulting in headaches. If the nerve is further compressed, localized numbness or even weakness may be noted in the upper extremities.

For those withmyelopathy, walking balance is gradually lost and they tend to walk like a drunk. Coordination is also affected. However, since these occur slowly, patients are often unaware that these problems are developing. In advanced stages of myelopathy, control of urination and bowel movement may be lost. In even more extreme cases, the muscles of the upper and lower extremities may become weak.

Radiographic Examination:

X-rays of the cervical spine showing all the neck bones are needed. MRI is currently the diagnostic tool of choice when evaluating patients with nerve or spinal cord problems.


Treatment of patients with radiculopathy consists initially of anti-inflammatory medicines, a neck brace, and physical therapy. If there is no improvement within 6 – 8 weeks, or if the condition worsens, surgery may become necessary.

For patients with myelopathy, surgical decompression is the treatment of choice.


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