Your neck is referred to medically as your cervical spine, and it is a configuration of bones, nerves, muscles, ligaments, and tendons that performs multiple functions on an ongoing basis. Not only has your neck been tasked with the responsibility of supporting your skull, but it also assists in the flow of blood to the brain, and supplies a layer of protection for your spinal cord through the spinal canal that progresses through your seven cervical vertebrae (C1-C7).
Your cervical spine is also the most flexible portion of your spine, as your neck and head are able to freely move upward and downward, rotate to each side, and bend through a sideways motion. While this flexibility of your cervical spine usually enables you to make these movements without any form of pain, health issues can sometimes emerge that can create discomfort anywhere from your shoulders to the lower portions of your head.
There are several reasons why this can occur, but in some cases, the symptoms can become severe, and your range of motion may also be reduced when this takes place. Strains and sprains of the neck are frequent sources of pain, while discomfort can also occur due to stress, or due to the way in which you slept during the previous night.
What Is Cervical Spondylosis?
However, another common cause for pain and decreased mobility is the aging process. It is a normal occurrence to experience the effects of degeneration in the joints and discs of the neck, which can often result in arthritis in this vital area. Our discs can also begin to bulge as we become older, while we encounter a loss of the fluid that was present when we were younger.
This while also deteriorating to the point that they lose their strength. This can decrease the space between your discs, which will restrict the spinal cord and nerve roots that travel from your brain to your muscles. The protective cartilage of the joints can be negatively impacted by the lifelong wear-and-tear to the degree that bone might rub against other bone.
This can result in the body growing additional bone in the joint, as small cracks emerge in the discs. This can lead to bone spurs, and the process is called cervical spondylosis, which is also referred to as arthritis of the neck. or cervical osteoarthritis. This condition affects over 85% of people who are at least 60 years of age.
In addition to the possibility of this occurring due to the aging process, genetics can be a factor, while certain jobs that entail repeating the same motion over an extended period of time can increase the risk for this condition to emerge. A medical history that includes neck injuries can also raise the risk of incurring cervical spondylosis, while smoking will also increase the risk for this condition to emerge.
Symptoms Of Cervical Spondylosis
Since degeneration of the cervical spine is a natural result of the aging process, the fact that this is normal also keeps some people from noticing any symptoms. But many other patients will be confronted with stiffness and pain in the neck, along with numbness, weakness or tingling in the arms, hands, legs or feet. Decreased coordination and difficulty walking can also emerge, as can an increase in struggles with bowel or bladder control. Headaches, dizziness, and a grinding feeling can also occur due to this condition.
When To Visit A Doctor
You should contact a physician if you are contending with neck pain that is severe, or if you have been dealing with discomfort for a few days without any decrease in the pain. It is also recommended that you visit a doctor if your pain has advanced to your legs or arms, or if you are also dealing with tingling, numbness, weakness, or headaches.
What Your Doctor Will Do
In order to deliver a proper diagnosis, your physician will ask questions regarding your general health along with any medical history that is relevant to your neck discomfort and any other symptoms. This should include a complete examination of your neck, arms, and shoulders with the potential that he or she will also examine your legs.
This will present your doctor with a more definitive understanding concerning your current level of flexibility and strength in those areas of your body. He or she might also check your neck and shoulders for swelling.
At that point, your physician might order diagnostic testing that could consist of X-rays, a CT scan, an MRI, or an EMG – which measures the degree of dysfunction with nerves and muscles with electrical impulses. It is possible that your physician will also order blood tests in order to deliver a more complete diagnosis.
Treatments For Cervical Spondylosis
Fortunately for anyone who is contending with cervical spondylosis, there is a great likelihood that you will not require surgery, as this is not necessary in the vast majority of cases.
Instead, there is a much higher probability that physical therapy will be recommended for your condition. This will be beneficial in multiple ways, which should include a reduction in your pain and an increase in your mobility and strength.
It is possible that your physician may also prescribe medication that will decrease your discomfort and also diminish any inflammation.
You may also receive a suggestion of applying heat, ice, or a cervical collar on a temporary basis. All of which will be designed to improve your symptoms.
While surgery for cervical spondylosis is unlikely, there is the possibility that it will be recommended if your spinal cord or a specific nerve is being restricted, and other forms of relief will not be applicable.
At Orthopedic Associates We Can Help
If you are experiencing cervical spondylosis, if you are having problems with the range of motion with your neck, or if you are contending with any other issues that are impacting your neck, spine, shoulders, elbows, hands, hips, knees, feet or ankles, then we encourage you to visit us at Orthopedic Associates. With eight board-certified physicians and two board-eligible physicians in orthopedic specialties, Orthopedic Associates offers a full spectrum of musculoskeletal care, along with in-house physical therapy. state-of-the-art-technology, and an on-site surgical center.
We also invite you to consult one of our neck and spine doctors if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Hard, knotted muscles in your neck or shoulders
- Decreased range of motion.
- Tightness in the general neck-and-shoulder area
- Stiffness as you go to look over your left or right shoulders
- Headaches originating from the base of your skull and continuing to the front of your forehead.
Our specialists also provide on-call availability, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and can treat these additional neck conditions:
- Anatomy of the Spine
- Cervical Radiculopathy
- Compression Fracture of the Spine
- Degenerative Disc Disease
- Facet Joint Syndrome
- Herniated Disc(s) (Cervical)
- Lumbar Radiculopathy (Sciatica)
- Metastatic Cancer of the Spine
- Muscle Strain of the Upper Back (Trapezius Strain)
- Post-Laminectomy Syndrome
- Spinal Epidural Abscess
- Spinal Infection
- Spinal Stenosis
- Where Lower Back Pain Begins
- Where Neck Pain Begins