Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Cervical Spondylosis

Cervical spondylosis is a disorder that happens with age. This happens due to degeneration of the bones of spine or the ribs. The spinal canal narrows down and causes the muscles or the nerves attaching to compress than normal size. And hence the mild pain starts and ends in severe dysfunction.

Cervical spondylosis, also known as cervical arthritis, cervical osteoarthritis and neck arthritis, is a degenerative osteoarthritis condition that affects the cervical spine.

The cervical vertebrae are the seven vertebrae between the skull and the chest that form the upper spine. Cervical spondylosis is often caused by earlier back injuries such as sports injuries and falls.

A specific form of arthritis, which attacks vertebrae and connecting bony, and ligament structures, is known as Spondylosis. Frequently it occurs in the cervical vertebrae. The spines of majority of people above the age of 50 have certain degree of osteo arthritic changes. But they seldom cause acute symptoms. Certain precipitating factors like trauma, incorrect posture of the body, pressure while sleeping and excessive intake of sour food usually precipitate these attacks.

In ayurveda this condition is known as Griva Sandhigata Vata. Pain in the back of neck, shoulder and arms, stiffness of the neck and even paraplegia occur due to this condition. The movement of the spine generally aggravates the pain of the neck. It is often associated with loss of memory and sleeplessness.


· Neck or shoulder pain, stiffness of the neck and difficulty turning or bending the neck from side-to-side are also symptoms of cervical spondylosis. The symptoms of cervical spondylosis may get worse with turning, extending, or bending the neck. Pain that shoots down the arm, and numbness, weakness or pains in the arm are also symptoms of cervical spondylosis.

· Numbness or a feeling of weakness in the shoulders or in the arm area.

· Muscles spasm and popping sound near the neck.

· Sometimes the pain moves to head

· Symptoms of cervical spondylosis are caused by imposition on the spinal cord or the nerves as they exit the spine, or both. Neck and shoulder pain are the most common symptom.

· A stiff neck is most often one of the very first signs. Neck stiffness tends to grow progressively worse over time

· Radiating pain to the bottom of the skull and/or to the shoulder and down the arm. This radiating pain may seem like a stabbing or a burning or it might present itself as a dull ache.

· Along with pain, cervical spondylosis can be accompanied by parathesias and muscle weakness in the neck, shoulders, arms and hands, and a syndrome called “numb, clumsy hands”


  1. Cervical spondylosis is caused by chronic degeneration of the cervical spine, the cushions between the neck vertebrae, and joints between the bones of the cervical spine.
  2. A previous neck injury can predispose to a person to cervical spondylosis.
  3. Carrying loads on your head (for example, carrying a heavy surfboard down the beach to the waves)
  4. Professional dancing.
  5. Professional gymnastics.


The following methods are used to diagnose arthritis of the neck:

  1. MRIs - Particularly useful for viewing the condition of the spinal nerves, MRIs take pictures from many angles.
  2. CT scans provide good views of the encroachment on nervous tissue caused by the remodeling/reshaping of bones.
  3. Myelogram - this imaging technique enhances the visibility of X-rays. They are especially good for seeing problems located at nerve roots.
Do's & Don'ts
  1. Wheat is better than rice, maida and suji.
  2. Exposure to cold is avoided.
  3. Sour things, particularly curd, etc. are strictly prohibited.

Can Cervical Spondylosis be treated?

Yes. However, in mild cases, no treatment is required. When treatment is required, it is aimed at relieving pain and preventing permanent spinal cord and nerve root injury. Treatments include neck brace, anti-inflammatory medication, neck traction, bed rest, and cortisone injections. In some cases, surgery is necessary to remove bone and disc tissue.

Complications of Cervical Spondylosis

Some common complications of cervical spondylosis are:

  1. chronic neck pain
  2. progressive loss of muscle function or feeling
  3. inability to retain feces
  4. use of a neck brace to immobilize the neck
  5. urinary incontinence

How does Ayurveda interpret these conditions?

Ayurveda understands the functioning of the body as comprising of three basic functions, Movement, Change and growth & stability, which are referred to as the three doshas Vata, Pitta & Kapha.

These functions in a state of equilibrium lead to health and in-equilibrium to diseases.

The disturbance to any one of these ultimately leads to problems related to all the three functions.
Treatment in Ayurveda is aimed at restoring the equilibrium through correction of the underlying functional in-equilibrium.

Treatment comprises of three approaches, Elimination (Sodhanam) of the accumulated toxic products of digestion, metabolism and the disease process, Pacification (Samanam) and correction of the entities responsible for altered functioning and Rasayanam (Rejuvenation) of the bodily tissue to regain and maintain natural strength and vitality.

Vata, the principle of movement is the predominant function with the skeleto-muscular system and the nervous system. Problems relating to these systems are predominantly caused by vitiated Vata. The vitiation of vata is caused by two mechanisms.

One of them is obstruction to vata due to malfunctioning of kapha and pitta. The other one is increase of vata independently as in the case of the degenerative problems.
The therapeutic approach to the two types of vitiation is different. If Vata’s functions are deranged due to Kapha and Pitta, as in the case of inflammation, correcting them through elimination and pacification is the method to be adopted. For diseases due to Vata alone (the degenerative disorders), the concept is to use medications which arrest the degenerative processes. While fibromyalgia is a condition where Vata is deranged due to Pitta and Kapha, the other two problems are due to Vata alone. The treatment of cervical spondylosis and herniated disk comprises of use of medications to arrest the degenerative process.

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