What is Cervical Spondylitis?
Cervical spondylitis is a common degenerative condition of the cervical (neck) spine that most likely is caused by age-related changes (wear and tear) in the intervertebral disc and vertebrae of the neck. Research has shown that CSM (cervical spondylotic myelopathy) is the most common cause of non-traumatic weakness in limbs and a persistent stiffness and nagging pain in the neck.
‘Spondylo’ is a Greek word-meaning vertebra. Spondylitis (or Spondylosis) means changes in the vertebral joint characterized by increasing degeneration of the intervertebral disc with subsequent changes in the bones and soft tissues.
Most often in people above the age of 40, the intervertebral discs get progressively dehydrated and they become more compressible and less elastic. Mineral deposition starts occurring in the intervertebral disc resulting in secondary changes. Although majority of individuals over 40 years of age demonstrate significant radiological evidence of the above changes, only a small percentage develop symptoms of the same. Another noteworthy point is that sometimes the degenerative changes in the cervical spine can be visible on the X-ray as early as in 30’s but it does not call for any treatment if the patient is not symptomatic.
The above changes result in compression of the nerves leading to radiculopathy (pain, numbness, weakness and loss of reflex due to compression and irritation of spinal nerve) or compression of the spinal cord resulting in cervical spondylotic myelopathy (CSM) (commonly caused by spinal stenosis resulting in loss of movements and sensation). Both the neural and spinal cord compression will result in radiculomyelopathy.
Do’s and Don’ts
- Do regular exercise to maintain neck strength, flexibility and range of motion.
- Use firm mattress, thin pillow.
- Do turn to one side while getting up from lying down position.
- Wear a cervical collar during the day.
- Regularly walk or engage in low-impact aerobic activity.
- In order to avoid holding the head in the same position for long periods, take break while driving, watching TV or working on a computer.
- Use a seat belt when in a car and use firm collar while traveling.
- When in acute pain take rest, immobilize the neck, and take medications as directed.
- Avoid sitting for prolonged period of time in stressful postures.
- Avoid running and high-impact aerobics, if you have any neck pain.
- Do not lift heavy weights on head or back.
- Avoid bad roads, if traveling by two or four wheelers.
- Do not drive for long hours; take breaks.
- Avoid habit of holding the telephone on one shoulder and leaning at it for long time.
- Do not take many pillows below the neck and shoulder while sleeping.
- Do not lie flat on your stomach.
- In order to turn around, do not twist your neck or the body; instead turn around by moving your feet first.
- Do not undergo spinal manipulations if you are experiencing acute pain.
What are the bad postures that can worsen cervical spondylitis?
1. The head held forward from normal position
2. The shoulders held up and forward
3. The chest bent and rounded
4. The pelvic area tilted backwards
5. The hips, knees and ankles bent
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