As you age, the discs between the vertebrae in the spine begin to wear down. The disorder is referred to as cervical spondylosis, as it affects the cervical, or neck, portion of the spine. While normal wear on the disc is to be expected with age, those who have cervical spondylosis can develop osteoarthritis in the cervical bones further down the road. Additionally, spurs or growths on the vertebrae can develop and press down on nerves in the spine, causing extreme pain and discomfort.
Age plays a large factor in the degeneration of the cartilage and breakdown of the cervical bones. Starting at age 30, the wear on cartilage and bones begins, which can prompt the development of bone growth, such as spurs. Cervical spondylosis occurs in everyone at some point, due to the aging process. Those 60 years of age and older are the most susceptible to the condition, though other factors include:
Common age-related causes for cervical spondylosis include:
Symptoms of cervical spondylosis are slow to develop, but as with any age-related condition, can appear suddenly. Symptoms to be aware of include:
In extreme cases in which the spinal cord may be subjected to pressure, symptoms can cause a loss of balance or even an inability to control your bowels or bladder.
If you suspect your neck pain can be cervical spondylosis, your doctor may require a variety of tests to determine the diagnosis. Tests include:
Depending on the severity of the degeneration, your doctor may prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicine (NSAIDs) or muscle relaxants. Additional treatment options include:
Surgery may be required if there is no improvement in pain management, or you begin to develop severe symptoms. Surgical options include foraminotomy or laminectomy, both of which increase room around nerve roots and relieve pressure from the spinal cord and vertebrae.