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Cervical spondylosis treatment FAQ

Cervical spondylosis is a wear-and-tear condition affecting bones and tissue in the neck, causing pain and stiffness.

Self-care for cervical spondylosis includes:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs ( NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen.
  • Exercise, including swimming.
  • Neck support with a firm pillow at night.
  • In some cases, surgical treatment may be needed, including an operation on the damaged section of the spine.

What are the signs I need to seek medical advice about?

Seek medical advice if your neck pain is intense or persists for more than a couple of weeks.

Also seek immediate medical advice if the pain becomes worse or if there is numbness or weakness radiating into your shoulders, arm or hands.

A doctor will take a complete medical history to find out how long you've had the pain and what activities intensify or relieve the pain. A thorough examination may also involve hospital diagnostic tests such as X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans and a CT scan to determine whether you have cervical disc disease, and if so, where exactly the problem is located.

Should I see a physiotherapist for my pain?

A physiotherapist can help treat cervical disc disease by manipulating tissues and joints of the neck and by recommending exercises to reduce pain and increase range of movement.

Neck traction is a physiotherapy procedure to gently pull the head upwards to open up spaces between the discs of the spine. This can help relieve pressure on the affected disc and nerves.

Advice may be given on correct posture.

Is it safe to use over-the-counter painkillers?

If over-the-counter painkillers do not give relief when following the package directions, seek medical advice.

Taking some painkillers for too long without medical guidance can risk complications, such as internal bleeding.

Could I become addicted to prescription painkillers?

This can happen, but doctors will aim for the lowest effective dose of opioid medications, such as codeine, hydrocodone or oxycodone, to treat the pain whilst reducing the risk of addiction or dependence.

How long will it take me to recover?

Recovery times will vary depending on individual circumstances, but improvements with medication or physiotherapy should be seen within about 6 weeks.

Do I need surgery?

An operation may be considered if other treatments have not been effective, and depending on a person's general health and symptoms.

There are many types of disc replacement and fusion operations to treat a herniated disc or degenerative disc disease. How well you do after surgery will depend on your age, diagnosis and the type of procedure you have. However, the majority of people with cervical disc disease who require surgery do get relief. Even after a successful operation, however, it is possible to develop herniated disc disease above or below the previously affected disc.

What new treatments are there?

Implantable artificial discs have been developed for cervical disc replacement surgery. The artificial disc can reduce pain while preserving range of neck movement.

Research is being carried out to establish how to slow or reverse disc damage.

Once I recover, what precautions should I take?

A physiotherapist will suggest an exercise and stretching programme to help prevent future neck problems.

Good posture is important too.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on September 01, 2016

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