Cervical Spondylosis

Cervical spondylosis is the Latin term for degeneration of the vertebral discs within the neck.

The problem with this term is the it does not quantify the extent of degeneration and for many people there is an assumption that the degenerative changes must be bad if the pain experience is severe.

This is not the case. Mild spondylosis can initiate significant pain impulses whilst severe spondylosis may not initiate a pain response at all. There is no absolute direct correlation between pain and the level of degeneration.

X-ray images will provide an objective measure of the height of the spinal discs and bony changes within the vertebrae. However, once the level of degeneration has been established this does not directly affect best management. Mild or severe changes still require optimal movement, posture and strength.

If there are clinical signs of muscles weakness or problems with balance and mobility, then a further diagnosis of nerve root impingement or spinal stenosis may be determined. This may require different treatment. However, in the situation that a persons nerves remain functional then degenerative changes to the cervical spine need to managed just like any other degenerative joint.

The loss of vertebral disc height can increase mechanical irritation to facet joints; these, if inflamed can be injected with a corticosteroid. To address the mechanical factors, exercises and postural awareness including modification of activities and best ergonomics needs to be employed to minimise mechanical strain.

The exercises shown need to be performed gently and consistently. The exercises aim to manage movement, they are not pain management exercises and may even increase some discomfort whilst the tissues within the cervical spine improve their function and tolerance to being moved.

Cervical spondylosis is a degenerative condition and requires a life time management plan.