Cervical spondylosis is a 'wear and tear' of the vertebrae and discs in the neck. It is a normal part of ageing and does not cause symptoms in many people. However, it is sometimes a cause of neck pain. Symptoms tend to come and go. Treatments include keeping the neck moving, neck exercises and painkillers. In severe cases, the degeneration may cause irritation or pressure on the spinal nerve roots or spinal cord. This can cause arm or leg symptoms (detailed below). In these severe cases, surgery may be an option.
Understanding the neck
The back of the neck includes the cervical spine and the muscles and ligaments that surround and support it. The cervical spine is made up of seven bones called vertebrae. The first two are slightly different to the rest, as they attach the spine to the skull and allow the head to turn from side to side. The lower five cervical vertebrae are roughly cylindrical in shape - a bit like small tin cans - with bony projections.
The sides of the vertebrae are linked by small facet joints. Between each of the vertebrae is a 'disc'. The discs are made of a tough fibrous outer layer and a softer gel-like inner part. The discs act like 'shock absorbers' and allow the spine to be flexible.
Strong ligaments attach to adjacent vertebrae to give extra support and strength. Various muscles attached to the spine enable the spine to bend and move in various ways.