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Cervical spondylosis, also known as cervical osteoarthritis and neck arthritis, is a very common age-related condition that affects the joints in the neck.
According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, more than 85% of people over the age of 60 are affected by cervical spondylosis. (1)
Causes of Cervical Spondylosis
Cervical spondylosis occurs because of wear and tear of the cartilage, tissues, and bones of the cervical spine. While it mostly occurs as a result of age, it may also occur due to any of the following reasons:
- Dehydrated discs
- Herniated discs
- Bone spurs
- Stiff ligaments
- Overuse of the bones
Signs and Symptoms of Cervical Spondylosis
Cervical spondylosis does not cause noticeable symptoms for most people.
However, if symptoms do arise, one may experience:
- Neck pain
- Mild and chronic pain around the shoulder blades
- Stiffness in the neck
- Pain along the arms and in the fingers
The pain often increases when one stands, sits, sneezes, coughs, and tilts the neck backward. At times, one may also have symptoms like muscle weakness, headaches, and numbness/tingling sensation on the shoulders and arms.
Some less frequent but more serious symptoms may include loss of balance and loss of bladder or bowel control.
Tips and Remedies to Deal With Cervical Spondylosis
Here are some home remedies for cervical spondylosis.
1. Regular exercise can help
One of the major causes of cervical spondylosis is lack of regular exercise. Therefore, you can reduce the pain and stiffness around your neck and shoulders by incorporating regular physical exercise into your lifestyle.
A 2016 study published in Gymnasium: Scientific Journal of Education, Sports, and Education reports that a well-structured physical therapy program can reduce the improvement time of the symptoms of cervical spondylosis. (2)
You can consult a physical therapist to deal with cervical spondylosis symptoms. In the meantime, you can try some simple exercises at home, too.
How to perform:
- Rotate your head in both clockwise and counterclockwise directions, and nod the neck side to side from one shoulder to the other. Do this for 10 minutes 2 or 3 times daily. This will prevent the pain in your neck from worsening.
- You can even rotate your arms in clockwise and counterclockwise directions and fold and unfold your fists at regular intervals to control the pain.
- Also, try low-impact aerobic exercises like swimming or brisk walking for 30 minutes at least 5 times a week.
- You can also enjoy cycling on a regular basis. However, make sure to keep your back straight while cycling.
Note: If the pain becomes severe while doing any kind of exercise, stop doing it and consult your doctor.
2. Get a cervical traction
At times, your doctor may prescribe cervical traction to treat your cervical spondylosis. It is a popular treatment option to deal with neck pain. It is mostly used as part of a physical therapy treatment.
In cervical traction, the neck is gently stretched to separate the disc and joint surfaces in your cervical spine. The space between the vertebrae helps keep the spinal discs healthy as the pressure on the cervical discs and nerve roots reduces. This helps create expansion and get rid of compression.
A 2014 study published in the Journal of Orthopedic & Sports Physical Therapy came to the conclusion that mechanical traction can help lower disability and pain in people suffering from neck pain. (3)
Another 2017 meta-analysis of studies published in the journal Spine highlights the effectiveness of cervical traction in relieving neck pain. It was found that it reduces neck pain immediately following treatment. However, more studies are needed to determine the long-term effects of this treatment. (4)
Before using cervical traction devices, always consult your doctor.
3. Apply hot and cold compresses
Another easy way to deal with neck pain due to cervical spondylosis is alternating hot and cold compresses on the affected area.
Both cold and hot compresses are effective in different ways. (5) Hot compresses improve your blood circulation and relax your sore muscles. Cold compresses reduce swelling and inflammation.
How to use:
- To make the hot compress, wrap a hot water bag in a thin towel.
- To make the cold compress, wrap a few ice cubes in a thin towel.
- Place the hot compress on the affected area for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Remove it and apply the cold compress for 1 minute.
- Repeat the process for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Follow this simple remedy a few times daily until you get relief.
Note: Do not apply hot compresses if the affected area is red and irritated. Avoid cold compresses if you have circulatory problems.
4. Take an Epsom salt bath
Taking an Epsom salt bath on a regular basis is another good remedy to ease the symptoms related to cervical spondylosis. The magnesium in Epsom salt regulates the pH levels in the body, in turn reducing stiffness, inflammation, and pain in the neck and shoulders.
It has been found that magnesium aids in blocking the NMDA receptors and, thus, helps in reducing the pain. However, more convincing evidence is required before declaring magnesium as an effective adjuvant pain treatment. (6)
How to use:
- Mix a little water in 1 to 2 tablespoons of Epsom salt. Apply it on the affected area for 15 to 20 minutes to get soothing comfort. Do this every other day.
- Alternatively, add 2 cups of Epsom salt to a warm bath. Soak in it for 15 to 20 minutes. Enjoy this relaxing bath 2 or 3 times a week.
Note: Those who have kidney problems, heart problems, or diabetes must not use this remedy.
5. Massage your neck
When it comes to dealing with stiffness or pain in the neck due to cervical spondylosis, massage is a good treatment option.
A 2009 study published in the Clinical Journal of Pain suggests that massage is safe and may have clinical benefits in treating chronic neck pain at least in the short term. (7)
How to perform:
- In 1 teaspoon of warm extra-virgin olive oil, add 2 or 3 drops of peppermint essential oil.
- Use this to massage the stiff area in gentle, circular motions.
- Do this for 5–10 minutes, 2–3 times a day.
6. Use turmeric
Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, turmeric is another popular remedy for the pain and inflammation caused by cervical spondylosis. In addition, turmeric increases blood circulation, which helps reduce muscle stiffness and pain.
A 2003 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine reports that curcumin, a compound in turmeric, has anti-inflammatory activity. (8)
How to use:
- In a pan, mix 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder in a glass of milk. Put it on low heat for 5 minutes. Allow it to cool, and then add a little honey. Drink this 2 times daily.
- Alternatively, take turmeric capsules 3 times daily. Consult your doctor for the correct dosage.
Although in itself, turmeric would not help alleviate the condition, including it in your daily dietary intake would prove beneficial in getting relief from the pain, along with other numerous health benefits of turmeric.
7. Try using cayenne pepper
Another effective home remedy for finding relief from the pain and inflammation caused by cervical spondylosis is cayenne pepper. It contains capsaicin, which has analgesic as well as anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce pain and inflammation in the neck.
A 2013 study performed on rats, published in African Health Sciences, reports that capsaicin has both analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. (9)
How to use:
- Mix together 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper powder and 2 tablespoons of lukewarm olive oil. Apply it on the affected area. Cover it with a bandage and leave it on for a few hours or overnight. Do this daily.
- Alternatively, add 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper powder to a glass of warm water. Drink this 2 or 3 times daily.
Not a remedy for cervical spondylosis in itself, but cayenne pepper does help in getting relief from the pain and discomfort caused by it.
8. Try ginger for relief
Ginger is another widely used home remedy to find relief from the pain and inflammation caused by cervical spondylosis. This herb is rich in anti-inflammatory properties and improves your blood circulation. Thus, it may help reduce pain and inflammation in the neck and surrounding areas.
Research has proved that ginger is rich in anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. (10)
How to use:
- Drink ginger tea 3 times a day. To make the tea, boil 1 tablespoon of thinly sliced ginger in 2 cups of water for 10 minutes. Strain, add honey and drink it. You can drink it up to 3 times a day.
- Alternatively, make a powdered preparation using equal amounts of dried ginger root, celery seeds, and cumin seeds. Add rock salt to improve the taste. Eat 1 teaspoon of this powder with water before going to bed.
- You can also massage the affected area with ginger oil a few times daily.
Additional Tips for Cervical Spondylosis Relief
- Avoid any activity or motion that worsens the symptoms of neck pain.
- Get a good night’s sleep. Sleep on one firm pillow to reduce the strain on your neck; do not use several pillows. Sleep on a firm mattress, on your back or on your side with knees bent at right angles to the torso.
- Maintain correct posture when standing and sitting.
- Give up smoking and tobacco in any other form.
- Wear a soft neck brace or collar for short durations to get temporary relief. Do not wear it for long periods.
Risk Factors Related to Cervical Spondylosis
The biggest risk factor for cervical spondylosis is aging, normally starting to develop after age 40. Apart from age, other risk factors include:
- Occupations that may cause more stress on your neck
- Certain neck injuries
- Incorrect posture while sitting or walking
- Being overweight
- A sedentary lifestyle
- Genetic factors
When to See a Doctor
Consult a doctor if you experience numbness, weakness or tingling in the shoulder, arms, or legs all of a sudden. Also, consult a doctor emergently if you lose bowel or bladder control, or control of your arms or legs.
Most people above age 60 suffer from some degree of cervical spondylosis. Cervical spondylosis may be one of the causes of secondary hypertension; hence, it is important to get treatment on time. (11)
Fortunately, with the help of certain medications, simple lifestyle changes, and some simple home remedies, you can control the symptoms and lead a pain-free life. Follow the succeeding remedies daily until you recover completely.
Expert Answers (Q&A)
Answered by Dr. Vik Chatrath, MD (Orthopedic Surgeon)
Cervical spondylosis may never be cured completely, but 90% of the symptoms can be alleviated with certain lifestyle changes, healthy living, and appropriate exercise.
Yes, cervical spondylosis can lead to fatigue and dizziness. It can also cause headaches and affect our concentration.
No, it’s not a life-threatening condition but can be very disabling to our everyday life.
Surgery is never the first-line treatment for cervical spondylosis, and other simpler modalities should be given a chance before settling for such invasive measures. Surgery is needed only if the preliminary treatment fails to provide any form of relief to the patient such that the symptoms continue unabated.
Yes, swimming is a great exercise for treating cervical spondylosis. It helps to strengthen the shoulder and neck muscles, thus improving not only your posture but easing the pain associated with this condition as well.
Our modern-day lifestyle keeps us using electronic devices all the time. This leads to bad posture accentuating spondylosis. Regular exercise and keeping your weight under check is paramount, so far as spondylosis treatment is concerned.
To that end, yoga seems to be a very effective exercise for patients suffering from such neck problems. Individuals with desk jobs should consider using a modifiable table top attachment, as it will allow them to raise or lower their workstations.