Cervical Spondylitis: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

August 21, 2019

Also called neck arthritis, cervical spondylitis is one of the many ailments that accompany old age. This condition is nothing but the wear and tear of the spinal discs that happens due to age – mostly. It’s treatable for sure, but not completely curable. That essentially means that when diagnosed, you can minimize the suffering with safe and trusted medication, but it will never fully go away.

Around 85% people over the age of 60 suffer from this problem, but given today’s lifestyle that has us hunching over our computer screens for the better part of the day, early diagnose has become essential. It’s very important to take steps and look after our posture and overall health in our youth to avoid severe cervical spondylitis in older age.

Symptoms

Let’s look at what the symptoms of neck arthritis entail. It will help you recognize the disease in the early stages.

The earliest and most prominent symptom is the pain one experiences around the shoulder blade. The pain may surge suddenly when you exert pressure on it, like when you sneeze or cough, or even move with a jerk. You will experience difficulty moving your neck backwards. You may also experience muscle pain. You will not be able to hold or lift objects easily. Patients have also reported occasional headaches.

Most people experience difficulty in walking. These symptoms will usually show up after the age of 45 – 50 and increase as you gear towards 60. But due to the sedentary lifestyles we lead, it is possible to see these symptoms as early as 30.

Causes

Cervical spondylosis takes place due to long-term degeneration and wear-and-tear of the cervical spine. It can also occur due to a previous neck injury. Some other causes may include:

  • Bone spurs: Abnormal bone growths may grow along the edges of vertebrae when cartilage in the spine starts to degenerate. The extra bone can impact delicate areas of the spine, such as the spinal cord and nerves, leading to pain.
  • Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis is a condition that can cause the cartilage in joints to degenerate.
  • Ageing: It usually occurs after the age of 40 years and progresses over time.
  • Overuse: Some jobs involve repetitive movements or heavy lifting, which can put extra pressure on the spine, resulting in early wear and tear.

Diagnosis and Treatment

If you feel severe pain in your shoulder blades, neck or back and feel it often, then it is time to see a doctor. Your neurologist (or orthopaedic specialist) will run a few imaging tests like X-ray, MRI, CT scan, etc. He might also perform Nerve Function tests, including Nerve condition study,  Electromyography, etc. to check if nerve signals are traveling properly to your muscles.

Once you’ve been diagnosed with cervical spondylitis for sure, it is time to take  action. You will be treated with either physical therapy or medication. Therapy is aimed at exercises that work at relaxing your back and neck muscles. Medications are usually muscle relaxants and anti-epileptic drugs.

Your doctor might suggest surgery if your symptoms worsen or conservative treatments fail. The surgery might involve removing part of a vertebra, herniated bone spurs to give more room to your nerves and spinal cord.