Cervical spondylosis or neck pain is common in people older than 50 years and may be a natural consequence of aging. Like the rest of the body, the bones in the neck (cervical spine) progressively degenerate with increasing age. Over time, arthritis of the neck (cervical spondylosis) may result from bony spurs and problems with ligaments and disks. The spinal canal may narrow (stenosis) and compress the spinal cord and the nerves to the arms. Injuries can also cause spinal cord compression. The neck pain that results may range from mild discomfort to severe, crippling dysfunction.
Symptoms of Arthritis of the Neck
Cervical spondylosis, or arthritis of the neck, can lead to chronic neck pain and stiffness that may radiate into to the upper or lower extremities (radiculopathy or myelopathy). Symptoms include:
- Neck pain and stiffness (may be worse with upright activity)
- Numbness and weakness in the arms, hands, and fingers
- Trouble walking because of weakness in the legs or loss of balance
- Grinding or popping sound or sensation in the neck when moving
- Muscle spasms or headaches (may originate in the neck)
The condition can cause irritability, fatigue, sleep disturbances as well as impair your ability to work.
The doctor will take a complete medical history to rule out other conditions, such as a neck sprain, that may cause symptoms similar to cervical spondylosis. The doctor will also perform a complete physical examination. Radiography (X-rays) and other diagnostic imaging tests may also be performed so the doctor can see inside the body.
The doctor will ask you about any illnesses or chronic conditions. What is the exact location of your neck pain? When did the problem begin? What does the pain feel like? Has your neck been injured before? Have you previously been treated for neck pain?
The physical examination involves identification of tender spots along the neck and an evaluation of neck motion in various directions. The doctor may also test your reflexes and the function of nerves and muscles in your arms and legs. The doctor may also ask you to walk.
X-rays and/or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies may show bone spurs and other abnormalities and reveal the extent of damage to the cervical spine. In some patients, additional tests are needed before a diagnosis is made. Sometimes, the doctor may refer you to a neurologist for further evaluation.