We’ve all had the experience of waking up to neck pain. Sometimes it’s because we slept wrong, or perhaps weren’t aware that we’d strained something the day before, only to have the injury make itself known the next morning.
Whatever the cause and no matter how uncomfortable, this type of neck pain tends to disappear as quickly as it arose. A few days go by and it’s gone. But if you’re middle-aged or older and you have been experiencing pain and stiffness more frequently, there’s a chance that you’ve developed cervical spondylosis.
Cervical spondylosis is a degenerative condition, more frequently referred to as arthritis of the neck. It is a function of age, wear and tear, and more than 85 percent of people over the age of 60 have it. Many people experience no symptoms at all, while others who come to our cervical spine specialty practice with neck pain get quick relief from medication, exercise and physical therapy. In some cases, the best solution that we can offer is surgery.
Cervical spondylosis occurs as the disks in the spin begin to show signs of wear and tear. They get shorter, lose much of their water content, and become weaker and more brittle. As this happens, it makes it more likely that the vertebrae will come into closer contact with one another.
At the same time the same degenerative process is occurring in other areas of the spine. The cartilage that covers and protects the facet joints begins to wear away, making it more likely that your bones rub against one another, and this leads to the growth of bony spurs that limit the amount of space within your spine for your nerves and spinal cord. This leads to pain, headaches, and grinding sounds when you turn your head or bend it up or down.
In the most severe cases, patients experiencing cervical spondylosis may lose their sense of balance or experience trouble walking or weakness in their limbs.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, your first step should be to make an appointment with our cervical spine specialists. We will conduct a thorough examination to include diagnostic tests that will reveal exactly what is happening.
Once we have an accurate diagnosis, we will create a treatment plan focused on relieving your pain and restoring you to the mobility and comfort that you previously had. This may include physical therapy that will stretch and strengthen weakened muscles, improve posture and provide additional support to the joints and muscles of your neck. We may also suggest over-the-counter medications, treatments like ice or heat, and even steroid injections to provide short-term pain relief.
In most cases there is no need for surgery for cervical spondylosis unless it is being exacerbated by a herniated disc or bone impinging on your nerves or spinal cord.
To learn about the right treatment for your particular situation, contact us today to set up an appointment to come in and see our specialists.