Cervical spondylosis is a term that describes wear and tear in your neck, and is often referred to as neck arthritis.

Your neck functions to hold up your head and protect the spinal cord. Like the disks in the lower back, the disk in the neck is a natural shock absorber in your spell. It fits between the bones of your spine and provides cushioning while also connecting one bone to the other. Think of the disk as a tire with a rubbery outside layer outside called the annulus fibrosis, and filled with a gelatinous-like substance called the nucleus pulposus.

With wear and tear, the joints in the neck can wear out. Bone spurs occurs as the body attempts to stop this rough motion. Sometimes, bone spurs can cause a tightening or pinching around the nerves as they leave the spinal cord. When this tightening occurs, it can affect the entire spinal cord, resulting in a loss of nerve function that can result in numbness, tingling, weakness, and loss of reflexes. In the worst cases, your bowel and bladder function can be affected as well as your ability to walk.

Nonsurgical treatments for cervical spondylosis include:

1. Exercise: Exercises can be done to strengthen your neck muscles. It is important to have a good understanding of the biomechanics of the neck so that you learn appropriate post and how to move the neck appropriately when performing the activities of daily living. A physical therapist can be very helpful in teaching you about biomechanics of the spine and in showing you the correct way to perform exercises to strengthen your neck muscles. With good strength and proper biomechanics, you can decrease the amount of pressure on the nerves in your neck.

2. Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Medication : Some of these medications, such as ibuprofen, can be purchased over the counter. They also can be given with a prescription from your doctor. The goal of an anti-inflammatory medication is to decrease pain and inflammation. When they are given with an appropriate exercise program, anti-inflammatory medications can significantly tie neck pain. There are over 30 different anti-inflammatory medications, and people may react differently to each medication. Additionally, you have to be careful when you take anti-inflammatory medications because they can cause stomach problems, so, it is important to discuss these with your physician before you try them. Most of these medications can not be taken when you are on blood thinners, and these medications can affect the blood pressure of some people with high blood pressure. People with kidney problems usually can not take these medications.

Always discuss all of your medications with your physician. This includes medications you are taking over the counter and prescriptions from other doctors.

3. Steroids: Oral steroids or an injection of a steroid around the nerves when the nerves are being squeezed may provide relief. When combined with therapy, this improvement can often be almost permanent.

4. Surgery: When all conservative efforts have failed, Surgery may be recommended if the nerves are showing evidence of increasing damage or if pain is intolerable. After surgery, additional exercises to strengthen the neck muscle are given as well as instruction on how to protect your neck.

Before engaging in any exercise program for your neck, discuss it with your physician.

© 2012 Winifred D. Bragg, MD. All Rights Reserved.