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Cervical spondylosis : Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

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Alternate Names : Cervical osteoarthritis, Arthritis – neck, Neck arthritis

Definition

Cervical spondylosis is a disorder in which there is abnormal wear on the cartilage and bones of the neck (cervical vertebrae).

See also:

  • Neck pain
  • Herniated disk
  • Spinal stenosis

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Cervical spondylosis is caused by chronic wearing away (degeneration) of the cervical spine, including the cushions between the neck vertebrae (cervical disks) and the joints between the bones of the cervical spine. There may be abnormal growths or “spurs” on the bones of the spine (vertebrae).

These changes can, over time, press down on (compress) one or more of the nerve roots. In advanced cases, the spinal cord becomes involved. This can affect not just the arms, but the legs as well.

The major risk factor is aging. By age 60, most women and men show signs of cervical spondylosis on x-ray. Other factors that can make a person more likely to develop spondylosis are:

  • Past neck injury (often several years before)
  • Severe arthritis
  • Past spine surgery

Pictures & Images

Skeletal spine

The spine is divided into several sections. The cervical vertebrae make up the neck. The thoracic vertebrae comprise the chest section and have ribs attached. The lumbar vertebrae are the remaining vertebrae below the last thoracic bone and the top of the sacrum. The sacral vertebrae are caged within the bones of the pelvis, and the coccyx represents the terminal vertebrae or vestigial tail.

Cervical spondylosis

Cervical spondylosis

Cervical spondylosis is a disorder that results from abnormal growth of the bones of the neck and degeneration and mineral deposits in the cushions between the vertebrae. Progressive neck pain is a key indication of cervical spondylosis. It may be the only symptom in many cases. Examination often shows limited ability to bend the head toward the shoulders and limited ability to rotate the head. The goal of treatment is relief of pain and prevention of permanent spinal cord and nerve root injury.


Review Date : 7/10/2009
Reviewed By : Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine; and C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Dept. of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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