Cervical Spondylosis

What is Cervical Spondylosis?

Cervical Spondylosis is also known as cervical osteoarthritis or neck arthritis and is a common age related condition that affects the joints and the discs in the neck.  More than 85% of people over the age of 60 are affected by cervical spondylosis.

It is caused by the constant wear and tear of the bones and cartilage found in your cervical spine or neck over many years.  People are at greater risk for developing cervical spondylosis if they have experienced neck injuries, have a family history of cervical spondylosis, engage in work activities that put extra strain on the neck via lifting, smoking, and being overweight or inactive.

What are the Symptoms of Cervical Spondylosis?

People with cervical Spondylosis experience pain and stiffness in the neck that gets progressively worse, shoulder pain, headaches that occur in the back of the head, muscle weakness, loss of balance, and loss of bladder or bowel control.

Cervical Spondylosis Causes

Cervical Spondylosis is caused by damage to the bones, cartilage, and ligaments in the neck. The primary source of this damage is the normal wear-and-tear associated with daily life, which accumulates over time eventually leading to issues such as dehydrated spinal discs, bone spurs, spinal disc herniation (slipped disc), or stiff ligaments. This accumulated damage can, in turn, lead to Cervical Spondylosis.

Because the condition is typically caused by accumulated damage, Cervical Spondylosis is most common in people over the age of 40, however people of any age can develop the disease. People who have experienced an injury to the neck area or spine are at higher risk, as are those who regularly place stress on the spine such as through work that involves heavy lifting.

There is also a hereditary aspect to Cervical Spondylosis. People with a family history of the condition are more likely – though not guaranteed – to develop it themselves. People who have no family history of Cervical Spondylosis can still develop the disease, although they are less likely to do so.

How is Cervical Spondylosis Treated?

Physical therapy helps individuals with cervical spondylosis stretch their neck and shoulder muscles in order to make them stronger and reduce pain.  Neck traction is also used and involves using weights to increase the space between the cervical joints and relieve the pressure on the cervical discs and nerve roots.

The muscle relaxant cyclobenzaprine is used to relaxed muscle spasms, the narcotic hydrocodone is used for pain relief, steroid injections of prednisone are used to reduce tissue inflammation, and the anti-seizure medication gabapentin is used to relieve pain caused by nerve damage.

Cervical Spondylosis Prevention

Although you cannot stop the aging process, you can take steps to maintain the health of your spine throughout your life.

Measures you can take include:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Take regular exercise
  • Keep good posture
  • Healthy lifestyle
  • Lift properly

Although you cannot be sure your efforts have eliminated your risk of developing Cervical Spondylosis, taking care of your spine puts you at reduced risk.

Last Reviewed:
October 01, 2016
Last Updated:
November 30, 2017