What is Cervical spondylitis ?

Cervical spondylitis is a common degenerative condition of the cervical (neck) spine that most likely is caused by age-related changes (wear and tear) in the intervertebral disks and vertebrae of the neck. Research has shown that CSM (cervical spondylotic myelopathy) is the most common cause of non-traumatic weakness in limbs and a persistent stiffness and nagging pain in the neck.

'Spondylo' is a Greek word-meaning vertebra.Spondylitis (or Spondylosis) means changes in the vertebral joint characterized by increasing degeneration of the intervertebral disc with subsequent changes in the bones and soft tissues.

Most often in people above the age of 40, the intervertebral discs get progressively dehydrated and they becomes more compressible and less elastic. Mineral deposition starts occurring in the intervertebral disc resulting in secondary changes.Although majority of individuals over 40 years of age demonstrate significant radiological evidence of the above changes, only a small percentage develop symptoms of the same. Another noteworthy point is that sometimes the degenerative changes in the cervical spine can be visible on the X-ray as early as in 30s but it does not call for any treatment if the patient is not symptomatic.

The above changes result in compression of the nerves leading to radiculopathy (pain, numbness, weakness and loss of reflex due to compression and irritation of spinal nerve) or compression of the spinal cord resulting incervical spondylotic myelopathy (CSM) (commonly caused by spinal stenosis resulting in loss of movements and sensation). Both the neural and spinal cord compression will result in radiculomyelopathy.

Cervical Spondylitis Symptoms

There are quite a few symptoms that indicate cervical spondylitis. These symptoms may show up distinctively, or may overlap one another. The following are the commonly seen symptoms of cervical spondylitis:

  1. Pain in the neck and shoulder regions. The pain in the neck region is usually followed by stiffening, which gradually increases. The pain in the neck area can also move downwards to the shoulders and the arms. Some patients may also experience swelling.

  2. Pain in the lower areas at the back of the head, called the sub-occipital region. This pain can move downwards to the base of the neck, as well as the top of the head. 

  3. Radicular symptoms. Patients may sometimes display loss of reflexes in certain areas due to the compression of the spinal nerves. Other radicular symptoms include numbness and pain in specific areas, usually the arms and the shoulders. 

  4. Cervical Spondylotic Myelopathy (CSM). Patients with CSM may experience difficulty in writing, unusual sensations, as well as weakness.

  5. In rare cases, one may find loss of control over the sphincter, as well as incontinence while passing urine. Some patients may also experience urgency in passing urine. 

  6. A patient suffering from cervical spondylitis suffers from compression of the spinal cord, which in turn leads to a compression of the spinal nerves. This may manifest itself in the form of an unstable gait. 

  7. Another prominent symptom is the weakening of the muscles in the upper arms, slowly progressing to the lower regions of the arms. This is preceded by pain in the upper region of the arms.

Causes of Cervical Spondylitis

Cervical spondylitis, indeed spondylitis itself, is known to be genetically influenced. Research has shown that variations of the HLA-B gene, part of a family of genes called Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA), influences the occurrence of spondylitis.

It is therefore very possible for a person with a family history of cervical spondylitis to have it himself, without the influence of any of the other factors. However, this possibility exists in only a few cases, as the number of people with spondylitis as a hereditary disorder has been found to be relatively low.

Another crucial factor is doing work that puts pressure on the neck region, like lifting heavy loads, gymnastics, etc. Other variations of this factor are work environments that require people to work in one position, usually bending, for long periods of time.

In short, any activity that puts undue stress on the neck for prolonged periods can cause cervical spondylitis. Some examples are watching the TV seated at an odd position that puts pressure on the neck, traveling for long distances and sleeping while seated, working the phones for long hours, etc.

Conventional Treatment

The aim of treatment is to give the patient relief from pain and prevent permanent spinal cord and nerve root injury.

Once a patient exhibits symptoms of cervical spondylitis, the physician usually asks for X-rays and an MRI of the cervical spine. The existence of the cervical spondylitic condition can be clearly seen on a MRI.

When in the initial stage, a good way to protect the cervical spine from further damage and degeneration is to wear a cervical collar. A cervical collar helps to keep the neck straight and provides support to the muscles in the region.

There are two kinds of collars:

  • Soft collar
  • Hard collar

Traction therapy

A patient can also opt for traction therapy of the neck, if the pain is more severe. Besides these devices and treatment options, there are medications available as well.

Comonly prescribed medications are usually NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) or muscle relaxants. A common NSAID is Ibuprofen, while cyclobenzaprine is a common muscle relaxant.

Surgical intervention

If the cervical condition is detected to be in a severe state (usually this is determined by studying the MRI), the final option is surgery. The surgical option is not, however, curative.

Homeopathic Treatment

  • Excellent relief in pain and stiffness

  • reduction in the inflammation of the disc

  • Improved mobility of neck and hands

  • Improvement in tingling and numbness which may be there is patients who have nerve compression

  • Reduced need for pain killer. You may be able to stop pain killers

  • No side effects at all

Duration of treatment:

Improvement in the symptoms of Cervical Spondylitis may be experienced in about two to three weeks. The length of treatment depends on the extent of inflammation and compression. Most patients need medication for about six to eight months.