Cervical spondylosis is usually age-related and is usually triggered by osteoarthritis.
Anyone who suffers from cervical spondylosis usually suffers from the symptoms of the narrowed spinal canal.
The disease is irreversible and it is only possible to alleviate symptoms and alleviate the everyday complaints that are triggered by them.
What is cervical spondylosis?
Broadly speaking, cervical spondylosis is a degeneration of the cervical spine. It is mostly age-related and is caused by wear and tear on the cartilage and, later, the bones of the cervical spine.
Cervical spondylosis is also known colloquially as “osteoarthritis of the cervical spine”.
However, this term is not entirely correct, because osteoarthritis only describes the effects on the bones , but not the other possible physical complaints that result from cervical spondylosis.
In old age, the intervertebral discs between the individual vertebral bodies shrink. Of course, this does not only happen in the cervical spine and also not only in old age.
The process of shrinking intervertebral discs begins around the age of 40.
If damage occurs to the vertebral bones as a result of osteoarthritis, it can happen that the body overshoots its target in “repairing” this damage and bony structures form that can narrow the spinal canal.
The spinal canal is the canal through which our spinal cord and thus many important nerve cords run.
Causes of Cervical Spondylosis
As already mentioned, the most common cause of the disease is usually age and the resulting wear and tear on the cartilage.
In addition, there are other triggers that can ultimately lead to the same disease with a different cause:
- Neck injuries from accidents
- Overload (e.g. due to professional activity that permanently stresses the area of the spine)
- Bad posture
- Sedentary lifestyle
It is debated whether genetic factors are also an option. In some people, the spinal canal is already narrowed at birth without a degenerative disease as a result of improper behavior.
Many people already have cervical spondylosis without knowing it, because they do not feel any discomfort.
As the disease progresses, however, symptoms can be more or less pronounced, which can appear suddenly or develop insidiously and can get worse as the disease progresses.
- Pain (around the neck and shoulder blade)
- Muscle weakness
- Pain in arms and fingers
- Stiff neck
- Headache in the back of the head
- Balance disorders
- Tingling or numbness in your arms and / or legs
- Loss of control of bladder / bowel emptying
Because some of these symptoms can indicate other, much more serious illnesses, you should consult a doctor quickly in any case.
Because most people with cervical spondylosis do not know this because they have no symptoms, the diagnosis is often an incidental finding.
If your doctor searches specifically because of symptoms, the following methods are available:
- Simple reflex and movement tests
- Computed Tomography
- Magnetic resonance tomography (MRI)
- Myelography (administration of contrast medium, which makes diagnosis easier using imaging tests)
- Electromyography (EMG) (nerve function test)
- Investigation of nerve conductivity
Often one procedure is enough to establish the diagnosis. If bony growths have formed that narrow the spinal canal, they can then be seen on a simple X-ray.
Your doctor can often safely make the diagnosis with just one procedure.
Therapy and treatment options
Most patients are primarily concerned with relieving pain that occurs. Your doctor will advise you to act appropriately to slow the progression of the disease and prevent further discomfort.
The therapy options include:
- Physiotherapy (stretching and strengthening the muscles)
- Medicines for pain and muscle relaxation
- Heat applications in the neck area (red light, heat pillows, …)
- Weight reduction
- No nicotine
In extreme cases of cervical pondylosis, surgical intervention can make sense. The goal is to widen the spinal canal by removing adhesions.
However, this operation is only really useful and necessary in very few cases, but is gladly offered in order to be able to offer additional therapy to private patients in particular.
It is important to know: Painkillers only relieve the pain, but do not cure the degeneration, because this is incurable.
Even if you don’t experience any discomfort, for example because the pain reliever is working well, you should still do physical therapy, weight loss, and other conventional therapies to slow the progression of the disease.