More than 85 percent of people older than age 60 are affected by cervical spondylosis.
Cervical spondylosis is also known as arthritis of the neck. It is caused by the degeneration or “wear and tear” of the cervical spine, including the joints between the bones and the discs between the vertebrae of the neck.
Abnormal spurs or growths on the edges of the vertebrae called osteophytes may also contribute to this condition.
This is all part of the degeneration process that the body goes through as a result of aging.
In many people, these changes won’t bring about any symptoms. For others, these degenerative changes may put pressure on the spinal nerves as they exit the spinal cord through openings called foramenae.
What are the Symptoms?
Although cervical spondylosis is a form of arthritis, it is less usual for it to become the type that is disabling or crippling. Symptoms usually develop over time but may also come on suddenly.
The symptoms can be extremely unpleasant and include a sudden locking pain, constant pain and aching in the neck and skull, and uncomfortable stiffness, especially in the morning or after sitting for a long time.
Pain will often be felt over the shoulder blade, but in rare cases will spread to the arm and hand.
In some (more rare) cases you may have difficulty squeezing your hand tightly or lifting your arm.
Other common symptoms include:
- Headaches in the back of your head
- Numbness or other unusual sensations in the shoulder
- Stiffness in the neck that gets progressively worse over time
The following may also further aggravate your pain:
- Sneezing, laughing or coughing
- Sitting or standing for prolonged periods
- Sleeping position
- Bending the neck backwards
- If a nerve is being pinched it is possible that you will experience some muscle weakness
Whilst Cervical Spondylosis is common, the good news is that most people experience no symptoms from these problems. When symptoms do occur, nonsurgical treatments often are effective.
Common Trigger Point Treatment Protocols
Who is Prone to Cervical Spondylosis?
Age is a major risk factor and most over the age of 60 show signs.
You are more susceptible if you:
- Have had spine or neck surgery in the past
- Are overweight and do not exercise
- Have to lift or twist and bend as part of your job
- Have a ruptured or slipped disc
- Have severe arthritis
- Have osteoporosis with small fractures to the spine
Cervical Radiculopathy and Cervical Myelopathy
In some cases cervical spondylosis can progress to cause cervical radiculopathy or cervical myelopathy (see diagram at the top of this page). Most cases do not. If your symptoms persist (or become severe) and you suspect that you are developing cervical radiculopathy or cervical myelopathy, you should see your doctor for a diagnosis that will usually require an MRI scan.
Self Managed Care - Tips
Paying attention to your posture (especially at work) can be important, as can a good quality pillow (try not to sleep with two pillows).
Aim to keep your neck moving as normally as possible. At some points when the pain may be quite bad, you may need to rest for a day or so. However, try to gently exercise the neck as soon as you are able. Try to not let it 'stiffen up' and try to increase the range of the neck movements over time. If possible try to gently move the neck in each direction at regular intervals throughout the day, every day.
Trigger Points and Trigger Point Therapy
Neck arthritis can manifest for a number of reasons including, genetic (inherited), occupational and/or historic trauma. Whatever the cause your body wants to protect you and is forced to react.
This leads to a type of ‘muscular frustration’ and knots develop in the multitude of local little muscles that can’t extend to their full capacity. These are trigger points.
‘Trigger points’ in the neck muscles cause them to be shorter, tighter and tenser. Trigger points can ‘live’ in muscles for years if untreated. The good news is that some trigger point/massage techniques can be effective for both short and long term relief.
This trigger point therapy blog is intended to be used for information purposes only and is not intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or to substitute for a medical diagnosis and/or treatment rendered or prescribed by a physician or competent healthcare professional. This information is designed as educational material, but should not be taken as a recommendation for treatment of any particular person or patient. Always consult your physician if you think you need treatment or if you feel unwell.
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