Is Cervical Spondylosis Behind Your Severe Neck Pain?

by Dr. Jonathan D'Souza

Pamela, a 34-year-old working mom from New York, developed a mind-numbing neck pain while preparing an office presentation. Being an advertising professional, she thought it was normal for her as she spent a lot of time on her laptop. She chose to ignore it and popped a painkiller instead. However, the pain was back after a few days and was giving her sleepless nights, too.

Blaming it on her insane working hours, Pamela continued with her life thinking the pain would go away by itself, perhaps after a couple of days of rest. However, the lingering pain was followed by a tingling sensation in the hands which alarmed her, following which she visited her doctor and was diagnosed with cervical spondylosis.

What Is Cervical Spondylosis?
It is an age-related degeneration of the cartilage and bones in the neck. Once considered a disease that affects people above 60, cervical spondylosis is fast emerging as a common condition affecting young professionals, some even below 30.

Everyday wear-and-tear may cause the cushions, the disks between the neck vertebrae and the joints between bones of the cervical spine to develop abnormal growths, or spurs, called osteophytes. Over time, this may cause the bones to press down and compress one or more nerve roots. This might affect certain muscles and ligaments as well.

What Puts You At Risk?
The following factors can make you more likely to develop the condition.

  1. Holding your neck in an uncomfortable position for a long time (not keeping your laptop/computer/TV screen at normal eye level)
  2. Repeating the same neck movements throughout the day (repetitive stress)
  3. Incorrect posture
  4. Being overweight
  5. Arthritis
  6. Past neck injury
  7. A job that requires heavy lifting of objects, bending or twisting
  8. Ruptured or slipped disk

Common Symptoms

  1. Neck pain that may spread to the shoulders and base of the skull, or pain that may spread down to the hands or fingers.
  2. A stiff neck, particularly after a night’s rest.
  3. Headaches that often originate at the back of the head and move towards the forehead.
  4. Loss of balance
  5. Difficulty controlling bladder,or bowel movements (resulting from pressure on the spinal cord)

The doctor may suggest diagnostic imaging techniques such as an X-ray, CT scan, or an MRI to check for bone spurs, or locate pinched nerves. An electromyogram (EMG) measures your nerves’ electrical activity and helps determine if the nerves are functioning properly.

The treatment focuses on reducing the risk of permanent damage and helping you lead a normal life, besides curbing the pain.

1. Physical Therapy
A physical therapist will show you exercises to stretch your neck and shoulder muscles in order to strengthen them and relieve pain. Neck traction—that involves use of weight to increase the space between cervical joints—can reduce pressure on the cervical disk and nerves.

2. Medications
He may also give you muscle relaxants to treat muscle spasms, or narcotics for pain relief. Anti-seizure drugs could be prescribed to treat pain caused by a nerve damage. In severe cases, steroid injections may also be given.

3. Surgery
Though rarely required, surgery may be needed in extreme cases and could involve getting rid of bone spurs or herniated disks to relieve the pressure on the spinal cord and nerves.

Herbs To Treat It
Cervical spondylosis is a life-long condition and, once diagnosed, you have to follow the prescribed treatment. However, several herbs have been found successful in reducing the pain. Some of them are:

1. Devil’s Claw
This herb is particularly effective in relieving neck pain due to cervical spondylosis caused by arthritis. Studies show that it alleviates pain in the spine, hip and knee.[1,2,3]
How To Take It: Brew 4-5gm of the root powder in a cup of water. Take it twice daily to see an improvement. You can buy devil’s claw powder here.

2. Ashwagandha
Research conducted on 25 cases of cervical spondylosis found ashwagandha to have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving benefits in arthritis patients.[4]
How To Take It: Ashwagandha can be taken as a fluid extract or a supplement. Talk to a naturopath to determine the correct dosage for you. Drinking a cup of hot milk containing a teaspoon of powdered ashwagandha before bedtime is also beneficial. You can buy ashwagandha powder here.

3. White Willow Bark
The bark of white willow contains salicin, a chemical similar to aspirin. The herb’s powerful anti-inflammatory plant compounds, flavonoids, are believed to have pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects. [5]
How To Take It: Add 1-2tsp of white willow bark to eight ounces of water and boil for 10 minutes. Let it steep for another 20 minutes. Have it twice daily.

The content made available at Z Living has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or by any other governmental agency. It is for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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1. Gagnier JJ, van Tulder MW, Berman B, Bombardier C. Herbal medicine for low back pain: a Cochrane review. Spine. 2007;32(1):82-92.

2. Leblan D, Chantre P, Fournie B. Harpagophytum procumbensin the treatment of knee and hip osteoarthritis. Four-month results of a prospective, multicenter, double-blind trial versus diacerhein. Joint Bone Spine. 2000;67(5):462-467.

3. Denner SS. A review of the efficacy and safety of devil’s claw for pain associated with degenerative musculoskeletal diseases, rheumatoid, and osteoarthritis. Holist Nurs Pract.2007;21(4):203-7.

4. Puri, Harbans Singh. Rasayana: ayurvedic herbs for longevity and rejuvenation – Volume 2 of Traditional herbal medicines for modern times. s.l.: CRC Press, 2002. ISBN 0415284899, 9780415284899.

5. Chrubasik JE, Roufogalis BD, Chrubasik S. Evidence of effectiveness of herbal anti-inflammatory drugs in the treatment of painful osteoarthritis and chronic low back pain. Phytother Res. 2007 Jul;21(7):675-83. Review.

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