Cervical spondylosis refers to common age related changes in the area of the spine at the back of the neck. With age, the vertebrae (the component bones of the spine) gradually form bone spurs, and their shock absorbing disks slowly shrink. These changes can alter the alignment and stability of the spine. They may go unnoticed, or they may produce problems related to pressure on the spine and associated nerves and blood vessels. This pressure can cause weakness, numbness, and pain in various areas of the body. In severe cases, walking and other activities may be compromised.
As people age, shrinkage of the vertebral disks prompts the vertebrae to form osteophytes to stabilize the back bone. However, the position and alignment of the disks and vertebrae may shift despite the osteophytes. Symptoms may arise from problems with one or more disks or vertebrae. Osteophyte formation and other changes do not necessarily lead to symptoms, but after age 50, half of the population experiences occasional neck pain and stiffness.
Cervical spondylosis is often suspected based on the symptoms and their history. Careful neurological examination can help determine which nerve roots are involved, based on the location of the pain and numbness, and the pattern of weakness and changes in reflex responses. CSM is probably the most common spinal cord disorder in people over 55 years of age in the world. As the number of elderly people increases, the incidence of CSM will probably also increase.