When we get older, our body changes. Some pain may be expected as we age. If you have noticed persistent cervical pain, it may be worth it to read on and find out what causes it and what you can do to help treat it.
First things things.
What is the Cervical Spine?
The cervical spine is the neck — a dainty home for the spinal cord that enables messages to be sent from the brain in order to regulate all features of the body. As delicate as it is, it's also exceptionally strong and resilient. You wouldn't be able to move your head back and forth without it.
The anatomy of the neck includes a formation of bones, nerves, muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Pain stemming from the cervical spine is extremely common, with more than 85 percent of people over the age of 60 being affected.
What Causes Neck Pain?
Neck pain is typically caused by chronic wear on the cervical spine as a result of aging. Facet joints in the neck grow, causing the ligaments around the spinal canal to thicken and bone spurs to develop. As the years go by, these changes compress one or more of the nerve roots, which then causes you neck pain. In advanced circumstances, the spinal cord becomes involved and surgery may be needed.
If you were curious of other factors besides aging that may make a person more likely to develop spinal degeneration accompanied by pain (a condition called spondylosis), look no further.
Those factors include:
- Previous Injury
- Ruptured or Slipped Disk
Oddly enough, many people who have spondylosis of the neck, don't even know it. This may be because more times than not, there are zero symptoms, or the symptoms are pretty mild.
What are the Symptoms?
When symptoms do emerge, they typically include neck pain, stiffness, headaches (predominantly in the back of the head), and/or shoulder pain. In rare cases, the pain may spread down the upper arm, forearm, or even to the fingers.
Treatment for cervical spondylosis depends on the severity of your signs and symptoms.
What are My Treatment Options?
If you do not have neurological compression associated with spondylosis, you will most likely not need surgery.
Interventional treatments for cervical spondylosis may include:
- Physical Therapy: Strengthening and stretching weakened or strained muscles to alleviate the pressure on the nerve root.
- Medications: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) work to reduce swelling and help manage pain. Other analgesics and opioids work to relieve your painful symptoms.
- Steroid Injections: Many patients find short-term relief from steroid injections to help reduce swelling and treat acute pain that radiates to the hips or down the leg.
- Smoke Cessation: Smoking actually doesn't just affect the lungs. It can affect the discs in our spine making them unable to absorb vital nutrients, which then makes your body more susceptible to injury.
- Clean Eating: If you want to have a strong back, you need a strong core. You can't have a strong core by eating sugary foods. Start with leafy greens and lean proteins.
If you have been diagnosed with cervical spondylosis, which then caused you symptomatic compression of nerve roots or the spinal cord, you may need surgery.
Surgery would help to relieve your pain, improve and preserve neurological function.
For spondylosis without nerve root or spinal cord compression, surgery normally can be avoided. In unusual circumstances, cervical spinal fusion may be presented as a treatment option.
Over 90 percent of neck and back problems can be managed without the need for surgery. But, if surgery has been recommended, you may want to seek a second surgical opinion to ensure you go down the right path for you. Cervical pain should not be ignored.
Unfortunately, we cannot stop the aging process. All you can do is stay up to date with information like this article and take the necessary prevention steps to limit your pain from getting worse. Knowledge is power.