Skip to content

    Osteoarthritis Health Center

    Select An Article

    Cervical Osteoarthritis (Cervical Spondylosis)

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    What Is Cervical Spondylosis?

    Cervical spondylosis is also called cervical osteoarthritis. It is a condition involving changes to the bones, discs, and joints of the neck. These changes are caused by the normal wear-and-tear of aging. With age, the discs of the cervical spine gradually break down, lose fluid, and become stiffer. Cervical spondylosis usually occurs in middle-aged and elderly people.

    As a result of the degeneration of discs and other cartilage, spurs or abnormal growths called osteophytes may form on the bones in the neck. These abnormal growths can cause narrowing of the interior of the spinal column or in the openings where spinal nerves exit, a related condition called cervical spinal stenosis.

    Recommended Related to Osteoarthritis

    An Exercise Fix for Knee Osteoarthritis

    Jerry Wade used to love bird-watching with his wife, an avid birder. "I'm not a birder myself, but I like being active and getting out there with her," he says. "Bird-watching puts you into natural areas and some rough terrain -- it's not an easy physical activity." But in the fall of 2005, the 66-year-old Columbia, Mo., resident, who had retired in 2000 from a career in community development, started noticing "pains and twinges" in his knees. A visit to his doctor in January 2006 brought the diagnosis:...

    Read the An Exercise Fix for Knee Osteoarthritis article > >

    Cervical spondylosis most often causes neck pain and stiffness. Although cervical spondylosis is rarely progressive, corrective surgery can be helpful in severe cases.

    What Are the Risk Factors for Cervical Spondylosis?

    Aging is the major factor for developing cervical osteoarthritis (cervical spondylosis). In most people older than age 50, the discs between the vertebrae become less spongy and provide less of a cushion. Bones and ligaments get thicker, encroaching on the space of the spinal canal.

    Another factor might be a previous injury to the neck. People in certain occupations or who perform specific activities -- such as gymnasts or other athletes -- may put more stress on their necks.

    Poor posture might also play a role in the development of spinal changes that result in cervical spondylosis.

    What Are the Symptoms of Cervical Spondylosis?

    The symptoms of cervical spondylosis include:

    • Neck stiffness and pain
    • Headache that may originate in the neck
    • Pain in the shoulder or arms
    • Inability to fully turn the head or bend the neck, sometimes interfering with driving
    • Grinding noise or sensation when the neck is turned

    Symptoms of cervical spondylosis tend to improve with rest. Symptoms are most severe in the morning and again at the end of the day.

    If cervical spondylosis results in pressure on the spinal cord (cervical stenosis), it can put pressure on the spinal cord, a condition called cervical myelopathy. Symptoms of cervical spondylosis with myelopathy include:

    • Tingling, numbness, and/or weakness in the arms, hands, legs, or feet
    • Lack of coordination and difficulty walking
    • Abnormal reflexes
    • Muscle spasms
    • Loss of control over bladder and bowel (incontinence)

    Another possible complication of cervical spondylosis is cervical radiculopathy, when bone spurs press on nerves as they exit the bones of the spinal column. Pain shooting down into one or both arms is the most common symptom.

    1 | 2 | 3
    Next Article:

    Today on WebMD

    elderly hands
    Even with arthritis pain.
    woman exercising
    Here are 7 easy tips.
     
    acupuncture needles in woman's back
    How it helps arthritis, migraines, and dental pain.
    chronic pain
    Get personalized tips to reduce discomfort.
     
    Keep Joints Healthy
    SLIDESHOW
    Chronic Pain Healthcheck
    HEALTH CHECK
     
    close up of man with gut
    Article
    man knee support
    Article
     
    woman with cold compress
    QUIZ
    Man doing tai chi
    Article
     
    hand gripping green rubber ball
    Slideshow
    person walking with assistance
    Slideshow