Cervical spondylosis is another name for osteoarthritis in the joints of the vertebrae in the neck. This means that it is a degenerative disease where bony surfaces, in this case in the cervical vertebrae, have lost their cartilage lining. If there is inflammation of the joint associated with this degeneration, one would use the term, spondylitis to describe it.
In spondylosis, apart from the changes described in the bony vertebrae, one will similarly encounter corresponding changes in the cushion like structures—the discs–that lie between successive vertebrae. Just as a degenerated joint alone will produce some symptoms of its own, a degenerated will be responsible for some, possibly different, complaints too.
Dr Smarajit Chakrabarty, senior consultant, Orthopaedics at Apollo Hospital tells us about cervical spondylosis and how one can prevent and treat the condition.
Cervical spondylosis is a degenerative clinical condition that involves changes to the bones, spinal discs and joints of the neck. Also known as cervical osteoarthritis, it is quite common in people who spend long hours on a computer, lead a sedentary life and those who have careers that require excessive stress on their neck like gymnasts and athletes. Here are the 9 reasons that lead to this condition.
Here is detailed information on 9 common habits that might lead to spondylosis.
Spondylotic changes are seen earlier and to a greater degree in those whose joints have been subjected to strain more than usual. Strain could be owing to excessive body weight, the spinal column being a weight-bearing structure, poor muscle tone or bad posture. And there is, of course, a genetic predisposition to this disease.
Here are 5 common symptoms observed in most people suffering from cervical spondylosis -
- Neck pain
- Neck stiffness
- Cervical myelopathy
- Cervical radiculopathy
Read in detail about top 5 symptoms of cervical spondylosis.
An x-ray of the Cervical Spine is usually enough to confirm the diagnosis of spondylosis/spondylitis, if suspected. When the patient presents the doctor, he/she will take a detailed history and conduct a thorough clinical examination. Read more about can using the computer too much make your child’s bones weaker?
In some cases, tests like an MRI is also recommended to look for the effects of the spondylosis in structures that don’t show up on x-ray, and to correlate the changes and effects with the patient’s symptoms.
Pain in the neck is the commonest symptom in spondylosis, but it would be incorrect to label every patient with neck pain as a spondylotic. By definition, the disease is called spondylosis only when there are degenerative changes seen on x-ray. Read about top 5 bad postures that can affect your health.
Very often, doctors, since there is no suitable term available to them to use, will call a neck pain without degeneration, a Cervicalgia, to show off their (otherwise non-existent) knowledge of the classical languages, where the suffix, --algia comes from the Greek word, algos, meaning pain.
If a young subject who, say, works on the computer for 8-10 hours a day starts experiencing a persistent pain in the neck, they should take it as a warning sign that spondylosis is on its way and start taking remedial measures. Did you know about these 5 bad postures that affect your health adversely?
Reduction of pain and restoration of function are the main objectives of treatment. To reduce the pain of inflammation, anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are prescribed for brief spells. These medicines should never be taken without supervision.
Physiotherapy and exercises remains the mainstay of treatment. Physiotherapy is safe and reduces inflammation and pain; exercises keep your joints moving. You may also like to read about yoga to relieve the symptoms of cervical spondylosis.
Traction is a conservative treatment option and rather an adjunct approach used along with other therapeutic modalities to manage spondylosis. This approach makes use of external force. The force is exerted directly on the compressed area and is generated with the help of weights and pulleys fastened around the patient’s compressed area. Read about how traction relieves neck pain due to cervical spondylosis.
An operation can be considered to remove an offending disc, in part, or in whole, if it is compressing a nerve or the spinal cord, and where conservative treatment has not provided relief. The operation is now performed through a small, minimally invasive, incision, and with the use of an operative microscope, so that the structures appear magnified, and so that there is less chance of tissue damage. If a whole disc is removed, the two vertebrae, above and below it, are fused together. Read about reiki for cervical spondylosis.
Disc replacement is a relatively new operation where the degenerated and compressed disc is removed, and replaced by an artificial one. The new disc will have more elasticity and, it is claimed, will allow a greater range of movement.
Apart from treatment options, you need to really focus on is the changes in the lifestyle in order to live a full life with arthritis. Here's your g
uide to living with arthritis.
The onset of cervical spondylosis can be slowed down with -
- Weight loss
- Exercises specific to the joint is question so that the transmission of weight through it is more balanced.
- Intake of a balanced diet, in terms of the calorific and protein intake, and one which provides anti-oxidants (vitamins and minerals) in sufficient quantity. I recommend fish, fresh fruits and milk/yoghurt to one and all. Here are few bone health tips which you didn't know.
- Ensuring that the joints (in the neck in this case) are not subjected to persistent and repetitive strain and stress, which means that one should take frequent breaks, and perhaps stretch a little, while one is at work. Here are 6 health benefits of ergonomic chairs at work.
- There are some medicines which will make the cartilage lining stronger, and if the treating doctor deems fit, they can be tried, in addition. Such medicines are of no help in advanced disease when there is no cartilage left to strengthen. And hope for the best!
The content has been verified by Dr Smarajit Chakrabarty, senior consultant, Orthopaedics at Apollo Hospital.