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Cervical Spondylosis


Are Spondylosis and Spondylitis the same thing?
Generally people use the words spondylosis and spondylitis interchangeably, they are in fact two different painful conditions that affect the spine. Spondylosis is chronic vertebral disc degeneration with herniation of disc material, calcification, etc. It is a fairly common condition, especially in people over the age of 50. On the other hand, spondylitis, is a form of inflammatory arthritic condition that affects the lower spine where the hips meet the spine. It is somewhat rare and can affect people of almost any age.

What is Cervical Spondylosis?
Simply put, cervical spondylosis is caused due to bony changes in the cervical vertebrae resulting in spinal chord compression. It leads to severe neck pain. Medically speaking, cervical spondylosis is caused when there is chronic degeneration of the cervical vertebrae, the intra-vertebral discs i.e, the cushions between the neck vertebrae.
Neck pain or cervical spondylosis is one of the most common ageing problems. Ageing is an inevitable process and our body starts experiencing degenerative changes in the cervical spine by the age of 30. These degenerative problems are catalysed by wrong postures. The symptoms are generally shrugged off as common neck pain. Nothing severe appears till the age of 55. By the time men and women enter their 60s, the symptoms become more pronounced, posture awkward depicting strong possibilities of cervical spondylosis.

Wear and tear due to ageing poses a major risk for cervical spondylosis. However, there are several other factors that cause neck pain and eventually lead to development of cervical spondylosis in the long run:

  • An injury in neck
  • Presence of severe arthritis
  • A spinal surgery of the past
  • Rigorous dancing and gymnastics
  • Carrying load on head
  • Smoking, as it contributes to degenerative disc diseases

Symptoms and diagnosis:
Irregular lifestyle, sedentary jobs in front of a computer, wrong postures, lack of exercise, etc., have ensured that neck pain becomes a very common problem. Cervical spondylosis is a creeping disease, which takes a long time to develop, generally years. Diagnosis of cervical spondylosis early on is difficult as it’s symptoms are very similar to that of rheumatoid arthritis, minor neck trauma or neck pain, lack of exercise or excessive exercise, ageing, etc. It is best to be aware of the symptoms of cervical spondylosis and to get it treated as early as possible. The telltale symptoms are listed as below

  • Arm, shoulder or neck pain
  • Headaches
  • Backache
  • Vertigo
  • Loss of sensation or abnormal sensations of the shoulders, arms, or legs
  • Weakness in arms or legs
  • Stiffness of neck
  • Imbalance/ loss of balance
  • Headaches, particularly in the back of the head
  • Muscle spasm
  • Grinding or popping in the neck when you move.
  • Permanent disability/ paralysis
  • Loss of control on bowels
  • General tiredness and anxiety

Completely avoiding cervical spondylosis may be difficult to achieve as it also depends on many other factors. But, practising the following guidelines, will enable you able to prevent it to a great extent:

  • Practising good posture, with neck in alignment of shoulders.
  • Maintain neck strength, flexibility and range of motion with the help of relevant and regular exercises.
  • Take frequent breaks while watching TV, sitting in front of a computer or when going on long drives.
  • Avoid holding your head in the same position for long periods of time.
  • Avoiding neck injuries.

Home remedies and treatment:
Cervical Spondylosis is an irreversible damage. However, if it is diagnosed at an early stage, the severity can be reduced and the extent of damage can be controlled by a combination of treatments such as exercise, physiotherapy, yoga, medication and at times surgery if recommended by an orthopaedic surgeon:

  • Regular exercises for the neck, shoulder, back and arms relieves the pain and tension in the muscles of the neck.
  • Physiotherapy and practising simple body stretches relieves spasm and pain.
  • Hot fomentation
  • Increase intake of calcium & vitamin B supplements.
  • Increase consumption of milk.
  • Acupressure.
  • Wearing a cervical collar (to support the neck).
  • Traction of neck can be given to curb the stiffness of neck.
  • Avoid lifting heavy objects.

If these suggestions are followed regularly for any neck pain, it minimises the risk of complications like Cervical Spondylosis and further damage to the spine in future.

By the age of 60 years, around 60% of men and 40% of women start snoring