Cervical Spondylitis – Symptoms And Causes

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medicine for cervical spondylitis

The cervical spondylitis or cervical spondylosis is a general term which is used to describe the age – related wear and tear affecting the spinal disks in your neck. As the disks dehydrate and shrink, then the signs of osteoarthritis develop, including bony projections along the edges of bones (called bone spurs). The cervical spondylitis is very common condition and it worsens with the age. It is noticed that more than 85% of people that are older than age 60 are affected by the cervical spondylitis [1]. In the most cases, people are not experiencing symptoms from these problems. But, when symptoms happen, nonsurgical treatments are often effective.

symptoms of cervical spondylitis

Cervical Spondylitis Symptoms

In the most cases, cervical spondylitis is not causing symptoms. When symptoms happen, usually they include stiffness in the neck and pain. In some cases, the cervical spondylitis is resulting in a narrowing of the space needed by the spinal cord and the nerve roots which pass through the spine to the rest of your body. If your spinal cord or nerve roots become pinched, then you might experience:

  • Loss of bladder control
  • Lack of coordination and difficulty walking
  • Tingling, numbness and weakness in your arms, feet, hands or legs

You should seek medical attention if you notice a sudden onset of numbness or weakness or you have a loss of bladder or bowel control. Your doctor will make you a physical exam which includes watching you walk to see if spinal compression is affecting your gait; testing your reflexes and muscle strength to find out if there is a pressure on your spinal nerves or spinal cord; checking the range of motion in your neck. The treatment for the cervical spondylitis will depend on your signs and symptoms.

The goal of the treatment is to give you a relief from the pain and to help you to maintain your usual activities as much as possible and prevent permanent injury to the spinal cord and nerves. You should tell your doctor all symptoms which you have, so your doctor will give you a better treatment and know the right diagnosis for your condition. If you had used some vitamins, supplements or medications for treating the cervical spondylitis, then tell your doctor. If some family member has the same condition as you, also tell your doctor, so the underlying cause can be easily diagnosed.

Cervical Spondylitis Causes

As you are getting older, the bones and cartilage which make up your backbone and neck gradually wear and tear. These changes can include:

  • Stiff ligaments: We know that ligaments are cords of tissue which connect bone to bone. The spinal ligaments can stiffen with the age and this is making your neck less flexible.
  • Bone spurs: The disk degeneration often results in the spine producing extra amounts of bone in a misguided effort to strengthen the spine. In some cases, these bone spurs can pinch the spinal cord and nerve roots. [2]
  • Herniated disks: It is known that age can affect the exterior of the spinal cords. Cracks often appear and this is leading to bulging disks, which sometimes can press on the spinal cord and nerve roots. [3]
  • Dehydrated disks: Disks acts like cushions between the vertebrae of the spine. By the age of 40, the spinal disk of most people is beginning to drying out and shrinking and this is allowing more bone – on – bone contact between the vertebrae.

Risk factors

There are some factors which can increase the risk for cervical spondylitis, such as

  • Smoking: This factor is increasing the risk of neck pain. [4]
  • Genetic factors: It is noticed that some people in certain families can experience more of these changes while others will not. [5]
  • Neck injuries: If you have previous neck injury, then this can increase your risk for cervical spondylosis.
  • Occupation: Jobs which require repetitive motions, awkward position or a lot of overhead work put extra stress on your neck.
  • Age: It is known that the cervical spondylitis is a normal part of aging. [6]

Complications

If your nerve roots or spinal cord become severely compressed as a result of cervical spondylitis, then the damage can be permanent.

References:

[1] Orthoinfo. Cervical spondylosis (Arthritis of the neck). Retrieved from orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases–conditions/cervical-spondylosis-arthritis-of-the-neck/

[2] Kuo DT, Tadi P. Cervical spondylosis. In StatPearls [Internet]. 2021. Retrieved from www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK551557/

[3] Yeung JT, Johnson JI, Karim AS. Cervical disc herniation presenting with neck pain and contralateral symptoms: a case report. Journal of Medical Case Reports. 2012;6.

[4] Association of Academic Physiatrists (AAP). Smoking cigarettes can be a chronic pain in your neck. Science Daily. 2016. Retrieved from sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/02/160218062227.htm

[5] Meng W, Chan BW, Harris C, et al. A genome-wide association study finds genetic variants associated with neck or shoulder pain in UK Biobank. Human Molecular Genetics. 2020;29(8):1396–404. doi:10.1093/hmg/ddaa058

[6] Hartvigsen J, Frederiksen H, Christensen K. Back and neck pain in seniors—prevalence and impact. European Spine Journal. 2006;15(6):802–6. doi:10.1007/s00586-005-0983-6

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