Wentworth-Douglass Hospital
(603) 742-5252
Decrease (-) Restore Default Increase (+) font size
Physicians
Site Search

Skeletal spine
Skeletal spine


Cervical spondylosis
Cervical spondylosis


Definition:

Cervical spondylosis is a disorder in which there is abnormal wear on the cartilage and bones of the neck (cervical vertebrae).

See also:



Alternative Names:

Cervical osteoarthritis; Arthritis - neck; Neck arthritis



Causes, incidence, and risk factors:

Cervical spondylosis is caused by chronic wearing away (degeneration) of the cervical spine, including the cushions between the neck vertebrae (cervical disks) 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.

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:

  • Past neck injury (often several years before)
  • Severe arthritis
  • Past spine surgery


Symptoms:

Symptoms often develop slowly over time, but may start suddenly.

More common symptoms are:

Less common symptoms are:

  • Loss of balance
  • Loss of control over the bladder or bowels (if spinal cord is compressed)


Signs and tests:

Examination often shows limited ability to bend the head toward the shoulder and rotate the head.

Weakness or loss of sensation can be signs of damage to specific nerve roots or to the spinal cord. Reflexes are often reduced.

The following tests may be done:



Treatment:

Even if your neck pain does not go away completely, or it gets more painful at times, learning to take care of your back at home and prevent repeat episodes of your back pain can help you avoid surgery.

Symptoms from cervical spondylosis usually stabilize or get better with simple, conservative therapy, including:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs)
  • Narcotic medicine or muscle relaxants
  • Physical therapy to learn exercises to do at home
  • Cortisone injections to specific areas of the spine
  • Various other medications to help with chronic pain, including phenytoin, carbamazepine, or tricyclic antidepressants such as amitriptyline

If the pain does not respond to these measures, or there is a loss of movement or feeling, surgery is considered. Surgery is done to relieve the pressure on the nerves or the spinal cord.

See also:



Support Groups:



Expectations (prognosis):

Most patients with cervical spondylosis will have some long-term symptoms. However, they respond to non-surgical treatments and do not need surgery.



Complications:
  • Chronic neck pain
  • Inability to hold in feces (fecal incontinence ) or urine (urinary incontinence)
  • Progressive loss of muscle function or feeling
  • Permanent disability (occasional)


Calling your health care provider:

Try home treatments, such as the use of a cervical collar (which you can buy at pharmacies) and over-the-counter pain medications.

Call your health care provider if:

  • The condition becomes worse
  • There are signs of complications
  • You develop new symptoms (such as loss of movement or sensation in an area of the body).


Prevention:

Many cases are not preventable. Preventing neck injury (such as by using proper equipment and techniques when playing sports) may reduce your risk.



References:

Feske SK, Cochrane TL. Degenerative and compressive structural disorders. In: Goetz CG. Goetz: Textbook of Clinical Neurology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007: chap 29.

Polston DW. Cervical radiculopathy. Neurol Clin. 2007;25:373-385.

Devereaux M. Neck Pain. Med Clin North Am. 2009;93:273-284.




Review Date: 7/10/2009
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine; and C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Dept. of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
adam.com


Find What You Need

Events
Careers
Foundation
About Us
Contact
Directions
News
Social Media Agreement
Joint Notice
Web Privacy Policy
WDH Staff Portal

Centers & Services

Cancer Center
Cardiovascular Care
Joint Replacement
Women & Children's
Physician Offices
Other Services

Conditions & Treatments

Health Information
Ebola Information

Support Services

Support Groups
Care-Van
Dental Center
Social Work
Food & Nutrition
Integrative Wellness
Spiritual Care
Concerns & Grievances
Homecare and Hospice

For Patients

Pay Your Bill Online
Pricing Estimates
Financial Assistance
Interpreter Services
Surgery Preparation
Medical Record Request
Advance Directives
Clinical Research & Trials

For Healthcare Professionals

Work and Life
Financial Well-Being
Career and Growth

The Wentworth-Douglass Health System includes:

 

Address

Wentworth-Douglass Hospital
789 Central Avenue, Dover, NH 03820
Phone: (603) 742-5252
Toll free: 1 (877) 201-7100