A very common degenerative back problem (it has estimated that 9 out of 10 people over 50 will develop the condition to some extent), cervical spondylosis occurs in the cervical part of the spine or, as most people know it as, the neck. Radiculopathy is usually linked to cervical spondylosis as it often occurs as a result of the process of spondylosis in the cervical part of the spine.
As we age, the soft tissue found in the back starts to dry out and lack the elasticity of youth. This is especially noticeable in the gel-filled cartilage or discs that behave like cushions between the vertebrae in the spine. Cervical spondylosis involves the wearing of the cartilage around the vertebrae found in the neck and the bone of the vertebrae can sustain damage. Often the bone will try to, unsuccessfully, repair itself causing extra bone material or bone spurs to grow. These bony projections develop along the edges of the bones and often cause wear and tear and/or pain if they press or rub on other bones or soft tissue.
Radiculopathy is often used to describe the general pain and discomfort caused by a compressed nerve root throughout the body, although we shall be focusing on the nerve roots in the cervical spine (neck). As well as the damage to the discs in the neck, the degeneration of the cervical spine can also cause compression of the nerve roots found in the neck. This compression can be caused by not only the aforementioned bone spurs pressing on the nerves, but also by the fluid escaping from the discs and squashing the nerve itself.
The most common symptoms of suffers of cervical spondylosis with radiculopathy will be stiffness and pain in their neck accompanied by headaches. The pressure on the nerve roots in the neck leads to the following symptoms: tingling or numbness in the shoulders or arms; pins and needles in the arms and legs; loss of feeling in the hands and legs, and a lack of co-ordination as well as difficulty walking.
There are a number of ways to alleviate the condition, and most people respond well to treatment after only a couple of weeks. However, the condition can often reoccur as the sufferer continues to age:
Often exercise such as swimming or walking will help reduce the symptoms, as well as localised physiotherapy. Anti-inflammatory medications will help, obtained by either prescription or bought over-the-counter. There are also a number of self-help techniques, such as sleeping with an extra pillow under the neck at night. Sufferers may also want to consider pain-killers or surgery, though the latter is often seen as a last resort due to the risks involved with spinal cord and neck surgery.