Spondylosis is a disorder that occurs due to degenerative changes of the spine, primarily in intervertebral disc (structure placed between two vertebrae) and articular cartilage. This disease can appear to any part of the spine and therefore, we differ:
- Cervical spondylosis – the disease is localized in the neck;
- Thoracic spondylosis – the disease is localized in the middle part of the spine;
- Lumbar spondylosis – the disease is localized in the lower back (lumbar).
WHY IT OCCURS?
Cervical spondylosis is a result of the aging process. As time passes, there occur changes in the spinal structures that lead to cervical spondylosis. There is:
- Degeneration of the intervertebral disc. Intervertebral disc is a structure placed between two vertebrae, which acts like a “shock absorber” of the spine. As time passes, there occur changes in the intervertebral disc such as loss of elasticity and decrease of the overall mass, which increases the possibility of direct contact between the affected vertebrae.
- Herniated intervertebral disc. If for any reason there occurs slipped disc, the central part prolapses and puts a pressure on the surrounding nerves and structures.
- Thickened ligaments. Ligaments are structures which connect bones to one another. If there occurs thickening of the ligaments that connect the neck vertebrae, movement of the neck become limited and the flexibility decreases.
SYMPTOMS AND SIGNS
This disease is mostly manifested by the following symptoms:
- Pain and stiffness in the neck
- Restricted movement of the neck
- Pain and stiffness in the shoulders
As the disease develops, due to the changes that occur during spondylosis, there can appear narrowing of the spinal canal- spinal stenosis. Spinal stenosis may cause radiculopathy or myelopathy.
Cervical radiculopathy occurs in case of injury or irritation of the cervical nerves. Except from spinal stenosis, it can also occur as a result of herniated interverbral disc. pressure and degenerative changes of the intervertebral disc. Symptoms of cervical radiculopathy are: pain, weakness, tingling and reduced sensibility in the part of the body innervated by the injured nerve (neck, shoulders, arms, chest or upper back).
Cervical myelopathy. As a result of spinal stenosis, there may occur compression of the spinal cord in the cervical in the neck and thus prevents the normal transmission of nerve impulses. In that case, the following symptoms occur: difficulty in walking and maintaining balance, numbness and weakness in the feet and hands, difficulty in performing fine movements (eg. Problems with writing), impaired control of the process of urination and/ or defecation, etc. .
In most of the cases, the treatment involves conservative therapy and the main goal is pain relief. Recommendations:
- Muscle relaxants. Stiffness in the neck muscles can be reduced with the help of muscle relaxants.
- Physical therapy. Isometric exercises and resistance exercises can help deal with chronic neck pain. Therefore, consult a specialist in physical medicine and ask for an advice about the exercises you should do in order to strengthen the neck muscles.
- Hot or cold compresses. Compresses are not a long-term solution, but can certainly reduce the pain instantly. The kind of compress that could help is individual.
- Massage. In order to reduce pain instantly,massage the affected area.
- Surgical treatment. If the above mentioned treatments are unsuccessful and the clinical image worsens, there is another solution- surgical treatment. It is done if there is pressure on the spinal cord or nerves, and the goal of the surgery is to remove the pressure.