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Cervical Spondylosis

What is cervical spondylosis? The term cervical spondylosis is sometimes used interchangeably with arthritis of the neck. But what does that really mean?

cervical spondylosis or arthritis of the neck

Neck Anatomy

Inside the neck is the uppermost portion of the spine. The portion is called the “cervical” section of the spine. Therefore, when we hear a term like “cervical spondylosis” we know that it refers to a condition in the neck.

This section of the spine contains 7 bones (vertebrae) stacked with cushion-like discs (inter-vertebral discs) between them.

Changes as We Age

As we age our body undergoes many changes. In our spine, bones can become brittle, the discs that help cushion the spine can lose height and start to dry out, and other tissues around the spine can deteriorate as well. These changes can leave joints stiff and make movement in the area painful.

What Does Spondylosis Mean?

We already know that cervical means pertaining to the neck. But what does spondylosis mean? Spondylosis is a general term which refers to degradation of the spine. It’s sometimes used to describe osteoarthritis of the spine. Spondylosis is not necessarily a “diagnosis” as it doesn’t describe the cause of the problem, but more the condition of the spine which is leading to the pain. Most often, the cause of the condition spondylosis is aging.

Cervical Spondylosis

Now that we have a better understanding of the terms, cervical, and spondylosis, we can have a better understanding of the term ‘cervical spondylosis’ as a whole. In general, cervical spondylosis is used to describe the condition in which normal degradation of the spine and tissues surrounding it cause pain. Arthritis is also a general term used to describe pain in the joints. Therefore, cervical spondylosis and arthritis of the neck are essentially different ways of describing the same condition going on inside someone’s body.


A person with cervical spondylosis may have no symptoms at all. Or, symptoms of can include a stiff neck and pain when moving the head and/or neck. This pain and stiffness often increases if the person is in the same position for a long period of time, such as staring at a computer screen for long periods of time.

Read about how technology is impacting the spine and causing a phenomenon called ‘tech neck‘.

In more severe cases, the individual may have headaches, muscle spasms, and numbness or tingling. If the nerves that go to the shoulders and arms are involved, symptoms may be felt in those areas as well.


Symptoms from cervical spondylosis can often be treated with over the counter anti-inflammatory or pain medication, heat/ice, physical therapy and stretches / neck exercises. If these treatments don’t improve the neck pain, injections may help. For the most severe cases, surgery may be appropriate.



*Please Note: Information on this site or any recommended sites should not be used as a diagnosis or a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.
Blue Distinction Center for Spine Surgery