Cervical spondylosis is described as age-related deterioration of the bones and discs in the neck. Over time, some degeneration in the vertebrae and discs develop which usually starts after reaching the age of 30.
A characteristic mark of the deterioration is that the perimeters of the vertebrae often end up with trivial, coarse areas of bone known as osteophytes while the discs thin out. This degeneration is the normal aging process. In some, the degeneration will not trigger any symptoms. Nevertheless, in some individuals, the adjacent ligaments, muscles or nerves can end up irritated or compressed by these degenerative changes. Cervical spondylosis does not often cause any issues but can be a cause for neck pain among the elderly.
- Neck pain that can spread to the shoulders and base of the skull. Movement of the neck can worsen the pain. The pain oftentimes spreads down the arm up to the hand or fingers. There are flare-ups of pain from time to time.
- Stiffness of the neck especially at night time.
- Headaches often start at the rear part of the head above the neck and radiate to the top of the forehead.
- Pins and needles sensation in the arm or hand due to irritation of a spinal nerve.
The neck should stay mobile as normal as possible. Once flare-ups strike, the individual should rest for 1-2 days. Nevertheless, gentle neck exercises should be done as soon as possible. It is important to gradually increase the range of neck movements.
- Pain medications such as paracetamol can be given.
- Anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen or naproxen can be used.
- Codeine is a stronger pain medication which is an option if anti-inflammatory drugs are not effective.
- Tricyclic antidepressant in low dose is oftentimes used for chronic neck pain.
In case the symptoms do not settle over a week or so, the individual is referred to a physiotherapist to help with pain relief and provide guidance on specific neck exercises.
Different treatment choices are available such as application of heat or cold, traction or even manipulation.