Cervical Spondylosis: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

cervical spondylosis icd 10

Cervical Spondylosis is an old age ailment which impacts the intervertebral discs, causing pain and muscle spasms.

Cervical Osteoarthritis, commonly known as cervical spondylosis is a degenerative disease affecting the bones and tissues of the neck, leg, and other joints.

It comes with age and is generally seen amongst people of age 50 years and above.

It is a disorder which people find in the carriage and the bones of the neck (cervical vertebrae). It is a common cause of chronic neck pain.

Due to the normal wear and tear of tissues, bones, and cartilages over the years, it causes a breakdown of the discs making it stiff and painful.

However, the degree of wear and tear, as well as the intensity of pain, might differ from people to people.

The abnormal growth of spurs, cartilage, and degeneration of the disc may cause severe pain and complexity in typical day to day activities.

According to a survey, this condition usually affects a few of the middle-aged persons and almost 90% of the old age people. Since the intensity and degree vary, many remain unfamiliar with it.

While some experience the excruciating pain, the others freely carry out their activities without any hindrance.

What causes Cervical Spondylosis?

The primary cause of cervical osteoarthritis is aging. With age the bones, cartilage, and spurs tend to lose fluid, becomes dry and stiffens.

This degeneration of the disc may further cause shrinking and abnormal growth of spinal cord causing pressure on the backbones. It may lead to physical inactivity along with severe pain.

Although aging is a highly relevant factor in determining the spondylosis, it is not the only cause. Another factor that causes risk of cervical spondylosis are:

  • Physical inactivity
  • ObesityNeck Injuries
  • Poor Posture
  • Stress on neck
  • Heredity
  • Smoking

The reason why Cervical spondylosis occurs is the passage of years and a lasting wear of the cervical spine.

This includes discs or dampers between the vertebrae of the neck and the joints between the bones of the cervical spine. Abnormal growths or “spurs” may occur in the bones of the spine (vertebrae).

These changes may, over time, cause pressure on (compress) one or more of the roots of the nerves. In advanced cases, the spinal cord is compromised.

This can affect not only the arms but also the legs. Daily wear and tear can initiate these changes. People who are very active at work or in sports may be more likely to suffer from them.

The most prominent risk factor is aging. At age 60, most people show signs of cervical spondylosis on x-rays. Other factors that may make a person more prone to spondylosis include:

  • Being overweight and not exercising
  • Having a job that requires lifting heavy objects or stooping or turning a lot
  • Past cervical injury (often a few years earlier)
  • Anterior column surgery
  • Herniated disc
  • Severe arthritis
  • Small fractures of the spine due to osteoporosis

Symptoms we should look for

In most of the cases there are negligible symptoms, and even if it persists, they mostly go unnoticeable. The symptoms might gradually intensify from mild to severe with age or further injuries. Although it varies, some of the symptoms to look for are:

  • Pain in shoulder, neck, and back
  • Stiffened collar
  • Sensation or tingling effect followed by pain every time trying to move
  • A headache
  • Anxiety and discomfort

Symptoms often appear slowly over time, but they can start or worsen suddenly. The pain may be mild, or it may be too intense that you can not move.

You may feel pain above the shoulder blade, or it may radiate to the arm, forearm, or (rarely) to the fingers.

The pain may get worse:

  • After standing or sitting.
  • At night.
  • When you sneeze, cough or laugh.
  • When you bend your neck back or walk more than a few feet or a few yards.

You may also have weakness in specific muscles. Sometimes, you may not notice it until your doctor examines it.

In other cases, you will see that you have difficulty lifting your arm, squeezing hard with one hand or other problems.

Other common symptoms are:

  • Stiff neck that gets worse over time.
  • Numbness or abnormal sensations in the shoulders or arms.
  • Headaches, especially in the back of the head.

Less common symptoms are:

  • Loss of balance.
  • Pain or numbness in the legs.
  • Loss of sphincter control (if there is pressure on the spinal cord).

Tests and exams

A test may show that you have difficulty moving your head toward your shoulder and rotating it.

The doctor may ask you to flex your head forward and to the sides while exerting gentle pressure down on the top of it.

Increased pain or numbness during this test is usually a sign that there is pressure on a nerve in the spine.

Weakness or loss of sensation can be signs of damage to certain nerve roots or spinal cord.

An x-ray of the neck or spine may be done to look for arthritis or other changes in the latter.

Doctors should do an MRI of the neck when you have:

  • Severe pain in the arm or neck that does not improve with treatment.
  • Weakness or numbness in arms or hands.

An EMG (electromyography) and nerve conduction velocity tests can be done to examine the functioning of nerve roots.


Your doctor and other healthcare professionals can help you manage your pain so you can stay active.

The doctor can refer you to physical therapy. The physiotherapist will help you reduce pain by using stretching and will show you how to do exercises that strengthen your neck muscles.

The therapist can also use cervical traction to relieve some of the pressure there.

You may also see a massage therapist, someone who performs acupuncture or someone who conducts spinal manipulation (chiropractor, osteopathic physician, or physiotherapist). Sometimes a few visits will help with neck pain.

Cold compresses and heat therapy can help with your pain during exacerbations.

A type of psychotherapy, called cognitive behavior therapy, can serve if the pain is having a severe impact on your life.

This technique helps you better understand your pain and teaches you how to handle it.

Medications can help with your neck pain. The doctor may prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to control pain in the long term.

A medical expert may prescribe Opioids if the pain is too severe and does not respond to NSAIDs.

If the pain does not respond to these treatments or you have a loss of movement or sensitivity, some may contemplate the possibility of surgery.

This procedure is done to relieve pressure on the nerves or spinal cord.