Among various health problems affecting the middle-aged group, degenerative joint problems or arthritis is an important one. For a healthy 45 plus, it is necessary to keep your joints strong and supple to maintain good health. However, certain natural changes occur without our knowledge. But yes, we can surely make the ageing part healthier by being aware, taking the right steps, and protecting our joints from injuries and damage. Let us look at cervical spondylosis or neck arthritis, which is a common cause of neck pain in middle-aged people.
All You Need To Know About Cervical Spondylosis
Cervical spondylosis is a degenerative condition affecting the neck or the cervical spine. Simply said, it is an age-related condition. It is the natural wearing down of the tissues in the neck like cartilage, ligaments, discs, and bones due to ageing. Some people may also call it as arthritis of the neck.
Knowing about cervical spondylosis is important for 45 plus people to plan their health and wellness routine appropriately. This condition can be managed well by relieving the symptoms and taking the necessary steps to prevent further damage to the cervical spine.
What are the causes?
The causes of cervical spondylosis are related to natural wear and tear of the neck joints. These changes include
Dehydrated discs – After the age of 40, the cushions or the intervertebral discs begin to dry out and shrink. As a result, the bones begin to rub against each other causing symptoms.
- Herniated discs – Due to ageing or sometimes injuries, the outside part that protects the spine, can break open and the intervertebral discs can bulge or herniate through the opening.
- Bone spurs – Degenerative changes result in excess bone production, often along the edges, to protect the spine. These can compress the nerve roots and cause neck pain.
- Stiff soft tissue – Lack of proper strength and flexibility of the cervical spine with ageing, can cause stiff muscles and ligaments. This contributes to more damage and neck pain.
Who is at risk?
Cervical spondylosis occurs due to wear and tear of the vertebrae in the neck and the cushion in between them called the intervertebral disc. As this is a natural part of ageing, most people are at risk of cervical spondylosis with increasing age. Hence, it is often seeing affecting people in their 45 plus years. However, certain factors may contribute to the increased risk of cervical spondylosis.
Certain occupations that involve
- Lifting heavy weights like labourers, construction workers,
- Exposed lot of vibrations, like running a machine or bus drivers,
- Repeated use of neck and shoulders, requiring to bend for long hours and use shoulder and hands at work
- Overuse of the neck joints may cause more damage to the cervical spine.
It is also fairly common in people working at the desk, using computers and even those involved in household chores.
People with previous injuries like falls, vehicular accidents, whiplash injuries may have weak musculature and joint. This increases the risk of early degeneration and cervical spondylosis.
Also, people who smoke, drink often may be at greater risk. People with a family history of cervical spondylosis or joint problem, a personal history of other joint problems, certain medical conditions that affect joints, nutritional deficiencies can be at greater risk too.
What are the symptoms of cervical spondylosis?
It can affect some people earlier while some may experience it later in their lives. Some may not have any symptoms and may remain unaware of the changes, while some experience symptoms of varying degrees symptoms.
The commonest symptoms of cervical spondylosis include
- Neck stiffness – There may be difficulty in turning the neck in different directions. Stiffness may be more after getting up in the morning or after doing a lot of strenuous activity.
- Neck pain– The pain may spread to the base of the skull and the shoulders. Pain may be worse on neck movement, bending, lifting weight, sneezing, or coughing. Sometimes, pain can also radiate to one or both arms, hands, and fingers.
- Headache – Some people also experience headaches, often starting from the base of the skull or back of the head extending to the forehead. Some may also experience a spinning sensation on moving the neck.
- Numbness and Tingling – Commonly called pins and needles, it is a tingling sensation in the hands and fingers. This is often due to impingement or pressure on the nerves due to cervical spondylosis.
- Weakness – In severe cases, people may also experience weakness in their arms and find it unable to work with their hands properly. There may be difficulty in writing, holding objects, or other gross and fine motor functions.
How is Cervical Spondylosis Treated?
- Diagnosis is made by clinical examination and scans like X-ray and MRI, based on the conditions. The treatment depends on how cervical spondylosis affects a person and the severity of the symptoms presented.
- Medical treatment includes muscle relaxants, pain-killers, and nerve pain medicines. Calcium and vitamin D supplements may be considered. Vitamin B12 and folic acid supplements may be given for those with numbness and tingling.
- Steroid injections may be considered for some cases that do not respond to treatment.
- Surgery is often recommended only for very severe cases with complications.
- Physical therapy helps relieve symptoms, improve range of movement, and prevent further damage. It is often helpful in most cases.
Lifestyle modifications, regular exercises, yoga, healthy diet, and nutritional supplements can help prevent or manage the condition well. We will look at the preventive tips in detail later. In our next blog, we will discuss lumbar spondylosis or