Cervical spondylosis is a disorder in which there is abnormal wear on the cartilage and bones of the neck (cervical vertebrae). It is a common cause of chronic neck pain.
Cervical spondylosis is caused by chronic wear on the cervical spine. This includes the disks or cushions between the neck vertebrae and the joints between the bones of the cervical spine. There may be abnormal growths or “spurs” on the bones of the spine (vertebrae).
These changes can, over time, press down on (compress) one or more of the nerve roots. In advanced cases, the spinal cord becomes involved. This can affect not just the arms, but the legs as well.
Everyday wear and tear may start these changes. People who are very active at work or in sports may be more likely to have them.
The major risk factor is aging. By age 60, most women and men show signs of cervical spondylosis on x-ray. Other factors that can make a person more likely to develop spondylosis are:
- Being overweight and not exercising
- Having a job that requires heavy lifting or a lot of bending and twisting
- Past neck injury (often several years before)
- Past spine surgery
- Ruptured or slipped disk
- Severe arthritis
Symptoms often develop slowly over time, but they may start or get worse suddenly. The pain may be mild, or it can be deep and so severe that you are unable to move.
You may feel the pain over the shoulder blade or it may spread to the upper arm, forearm, or (rarely) fingers.
The pain may get worse:
- After standing or sitting
- At night
- When you sneeze, cough, or laugh
- When you bend the neck backwards or walk more than a few yards
You may also have weakness in certain muscles. Sometimes, you may not notice it until your doctor examines you. In other cases, you will notice that you have a hard time lifting your arm, squeezing tightly with one of your hands, or other problems.
Other common symptoms are:
- Neck Stiffness that gets worse over time
- Numbness or abnormal sensation in the shoulders, arms, or (rarely) legs
- Head ache especially in the back of the head
Less common symptoms are:
- Loss of balance
- Loss of control over the bladder or bowels (if there is pressure on the spinal cord)