Dr. M.J. Bazos, MD Patient Handout


About Your Diagnosis
Cervical spondylosis is a term used to describe one of the causes of neck pain. It usually involves arthritis at the level of the vertebral bodies in the neck and may cause pressure on the nerves or spinal cord. This can make the condition difficult to differentiate from disk herniation or rupture. Pain may be present in the neck and may radiate to the shoulder blades, arm, and hand and fingers. Weakness in the arms may develop gradually and only be discovered during a physical examination.

Living With Your Diagnosis
Cervical spondylosis can begin as an intermittent problem or become apparent with severe pain on awakening. Numbness and tingling may develop in the arm and fingers. There is usually no history of injury. The acute neck pain usually responds to rest and use of medication. Partial paralysis sometimes develops and necessitates surgical decompression.

Limitation of neck motion with a collar or neck brace generally helps to decrease the pain. Most patients dislike the collar at fist; some, however, actually become dependent on the collar and do not want to go without it. Acute painful episodes are treated with rest and medications such as analgesics and anti-inflammatory drugs. Muscle relaxants are used sparingly and only for short periods of time. When the acute pain subsides, neck exercises are started and are used with the collar (Fig 1). Traction may be an option for some patients, although some may not be able to tolerate it, and a few become worse with it. Exercises in which patients actively move their necks are recommended for increasing motion and strength. Spinal manipulation is not recommended for this diagnosis. In rare instances an operation is necessary to relieve pressure on the nerves or spinal cord. This is usually recommended after nonsurgical treatment has not provided relief.

The DOs
• For acute, painful episodes, rest, immobilize the neck, and take as directed medications such as analgesics and anti-inflammatory drugs.
•Ê Perform as directed exercises that focus on active neck motion and strengthening.

The DON’Ts
•Ê Do not undergo spinal manipulations if you are experiencing acute pain.

When To Call Your Doctor
•Ê If pain has not responded to rest and medication. Sudden muscle weakness or paralysis should be dealt with immediately.

Mayo Clinic Health Letter, August 1993