Cervical Spondylosis: Symptoms, Treatment, Pain Management

Many of us may be sitting long hours in front of the laptop or computer at work, which can put pressure on the intervertebral discs, resulting in chronic neck pain, including cervical spondylosis.

Cervical spondylosis is characterised by degeneration of the discs and cervical vertebrae (backbone). It is a frequent cause of persistent neck pain.

What are the symptoms of cervical spondylosis?

Cervical spondylosis often presents itself with a range of symptoms, from mild to severe. Some of the symptoms are:

  • Neck and shoulder pain
  • Stiffness in the neck
  • A grinding sensation while moving your neck
  • Difficulty maintaining balance
  • Weakness in legs and arms
  • Headaches that usually start at the back of the neck

What are the causes of cervical spondylosis?

Cervical spondylosis is caused by the aging and chronic wear and tear of the cervical spine. Intervertebral discs lose height and begin to bulge as they age. They may also weaken and dry out, causing loss of disc space height. Furthermore, there may be spurs or abnormal growths on the vertebrae.

Such changes can gradually put pressure on the nerve roots. The spinal cord may be affected in more advanced cases. This may have an impact on your legs, arms, and balance.

What are the risk factors for cervical spondylosis?

Risk factors include:

  • Overweight
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Occupation that requires heavy lifting with twisting and bending
  • Previous neck injury
  • Previous spine surgery
  • Slipped or ruptured disc
  • Severe arthritis

How is cervical spondylosis diagnosed?

Your doctor would first question your general health and symptoms before conducting a thorough physical examination.

Diagnosis is made based on your reported symptoms, physical examination, and investigations.

  1. Imaging tests: X-ray, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, computed tomography (CT) scan.
  2. Electromyography (EMG): To measure electrical impulses of the muscles during contraction and at rest.
  3. Nerve conduction study: To determine the functionality of the spinal nerve.

How is cervical spondylosis treated?

Treatment options depend on the extent and severity of the problem.

  1. Medications: To relieve pain and inflammation.
    • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and aspirin
    • Oral corticosteroids
    • Muscle relaxants to treat painful spasms
  2. Soft cervical collar: To limit neck motion and allow neck muscles to rest.
  3. Steroid injections: To help relieve pain fast. However, the effects are temporary and wear off after a few weeks.
  4. Physiotherapy: Physical therapy programmes range from 6 to 8 weeks on average. Sessions are often scheduled two to three times each week.
  5. Surgery: Not commonly recommended unless there is cervical radiculopathy due to the nerve being pinched by a herniated disc or compression of the spinal compression.

How to manage cervical spondylosis while at work?

Studies have shown that most people who work by sitting for prolonged periods are susceptible to cervical spondylitis. The real culprit may be the uncomfortable sitting posture.

There are several ways to manage this situation.

  1. Maintain correct sitting posture

    Maintaining a good sitting posture ensures a good spine alignment to distribute body weight evenly. This will help reduce pressure on the spine and, thus, minimise pain.

  2. Comfortable workstation

    Those who work on the computer screen for long hours are more prone to cervical spondylosis after a few years. Ensure that the computer screen is kept at proper eye level and invest in an ergonomic chair with good lumbar support.

  3. Take regular breaks

    The best way to avoid cervical spondylosis is to take regular breaks while you continue your daily routine.

  4. Do exercises that help relieve pain due to cervical spondylosis

    This can range from gentle neck and shoulder rolls to stretches and other exercises. Again, make sure you consult a therapist to choose the right exercises.

  5. Apply heat or cold packs

    One of the quickest ways to alleviate the stiffness of the neck is to apply heat to the affected area by using a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel or heating pad for 20 minutes, 2 to 3 times a day. You could also use a cold bag wrapped in a towel for cold therapy.

Also, if you have cervical spondylosis, a proper sleeping position is vital. Avoid sleeping on your stomach. Additionally, use a firm mattress and ensure your head is the same height as the rest of your body.

What are the things to avoid in cervical spondylosis?

Prevention is better than cure. The following activities should be avoided to prevent aggravating cervical spondylosis pain:

  • Lifting heavy loads on the head.
  • High-impact exercises and workout routines.
  • Using many pillows below your neck while you are sleeping.
  • Improper posture while sleeping or sitting.
  • Long hours of driving without any break.

Book an appointment at Pantai Hospitals

Early detection of cervical spondylosis makes it easier to treat the condition with effective and appropriate treatment. A dedicated and expert team of Orthopaedic specialists at Pantai Hospital is available for consultation to provide the best care and assistance. 

Get in touch with us to book an appointment today if you have concerns or questions regarding cervical spondylosis. We assure you the best possible care tailored to your specific needs.

Pantai Hospital has been accredited by the Malaysian Society for Quality in Health (MSQH) for its commitment to patient safety and service quality.

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