Cervical spondylitis is arthritis of the neck. It occurs commonly due to age-related wear and tear that affects the spinal discs in your neck. The spinal discs are the shock absorbers between the vertebrae or the bone that form up your spine. They aid the movement to assist your neck to stay flexible so you will be able to bend and turn. After you are born, the spinal discs are primarily composed of water, roughly 80%. As we age, water gradually leaves the discs and they start to dry out. This causes the spinal discs to possess less shock-absorbing abilities and results in reduced cushions between the joints because the discs dehydrate and shrink. These are the initial signs of osteoarthritis that start to develop resulting in the development of the bone spurs or osteophytes along the sides of the vertebrae. This whole process is termed cervical spondylosis. They are the degenerative changes occurring within the neck, including the formation of bone spurs, and, therefore, the degeneration of the intervertebral discs between the vertebra occurs. More commonly, it is referred to as osteoarthritis of the neck. Age also affects the strength and structure of the spinal discs.
Cervical spondylosis is very common and typically worsens with age. The majority of people by the age of 60 will have some amount of disc degeneration, even if they are not experiencing neck pain. Also, it is not a fast process by any means. It may take several years or even decades before symptoms are experienced.
Symptoms of Cervical Spondylitis
Here are some common symptoms of cervical spondylitis that you should be aware of.
- Pain: It is the most common symptom of cervical spondylosis. There is a radiating pain to one or both the arms together with the neck because of the compression of nerve roots due to the formation of a new bone in the form of osteophytes. In the early stage, the pain is dull aching which occurs because of prolonged exertion, and, in the later stage, the neck pain occurs even on rest.
- Swelling: There could be swelling due to osteophytes or synovial thickening.
- Restricted joint movement: You may experience discomfort in the neck when trying to move in all directions. This might result in pain, muscle weakness, and muscle tightness.
- Stiffness: Gradually, the stiffness is followed by severe pain and contractures within the soft tissues.
- Tingling and numbness: This sensation mostly occurs when there is compression on the nerve roots originating from the spinal cord.
- Headache: Sometimes, the headache may start from the nape of the neck. This is also referred to as cervicogenic headache.
Who Are At Higher Risk Of Developing Cervical Spondylitis?
- Poor posture is one of the most important reasons for increasing neck pain which results in early spondylosis. Most often, people who are engaged in prolonged sitting jobs may have a poor posture because of long hours of sitting and a lot of stress. This can contribute to the development of cervical spondylosis.
- Other than simply getting older, what we experience in our lives matters a lot. Someone who is in an occupation or job that involves repetitive neck motions, awkward positioning, or just a lot of strenuous overhead work will have a lot more stress exerted on the neck. More wear and tear mean more likely that this condition shows up.
- Previous neck injuries will also increase the risk of cervical spondylosis, even more so if they are not treated properly.
- If cervical spondylosis runs in your families then there is likely to be a stronger genetic predisposition of you getting it.
- People who smoke are at a higher risk of developing cervical spondylosis.
- Depression and anxiety also increase the risk of developing cervical spondylosis leading to pain in the neck associated with headache.
Any condition of cervical spondylitis if treated in the early stages will offer you a far better outcome. In most cases, conservative treatments, such as spinal decompression therapy and physical therapy, may help in reducing the frequency and intensity of the symptoms. A lot of people have also got significant long-lasting relief from these treatments.
As it progresses, the degree to which someone will get relief will lessen. Treatment will usually include pain management through medications and injections, and possibly surgery if it is severe. That’s why it is very important to treat it as soon as possible.
How To Obtain Relief From Cervical Spondylitis?
- Rest: Have adequate rest. Having intermittent rest helps in settling the inflammation at the neck.
- Medicines to manage the pain: Various medicines help in controlling the pain and inflammation and that you should go for by following the proper advice of a qualified doctor.
- Soft cervical collar: It helps in relaxing the extreme pain of the neck and also relieves the inflammation in the neck. But, do not continue to wear the collar for an extended duration.
- Always wear the laptop bags on both the shoulder and never hang it on one side of the shoulder.
- Physiotherapy: It is one of the important treatments for cervical spondylitis as it helps in reducing the pain and inflammation and increases the blood supply and relaxes your neck.
Some of the stretches which can help in restoring the range of motion and flexibility of the neck are listed below.
- Rotational stretch: It involves your chin and looking out over the shoulder, hold in the same position for 10-15 seconds, return to the initial position, and then do the same on the other side. Do these stretches a couple of times. This will help you obtain relief from the discomfort of the neck.
- Lateral bend stretch: Bend your head (ear to the shoulder) on both the side.
- Passive stretch: Bend your head sideway, pull your head a bit more towards the shoulder for 10- 15 seconds, return to the initial position, and then follow the same on another side too.
- Flexion stretch: Do this chin to the chest stretch and hold for 10-15 seconds. Relax and repeat it three to five times.
- Neck rotation: Neck movement of clockwise and anti-clockwise for 2 minutes every 4-5 hours will also help you relax your neck.
- Certain fat-soluble Vitamin D abundant diet and calcium-rich diet helps to strengthen the bones and muscles and will prevent the spondylosis.
So, if you happen to suffer from cervical spondylitis, follow these helpful tips after consulting a qualified doctor and obtain relief from the pain and discomfort.