What are common cervical spondylosis treatments?

Cervical spondylosis does not always cause symptoms. Without symptoms, you may not need treatment at all.

When your condition does cause symptoms, conservative treatments effectively treat most cases. Your healthcare provider may recommend:

  • Physical therapy: Your symptoms may be relieved with specific exercises and stretches. Physical therapy focuses on stretching and strengthening your muscles and improving your posture. You may do these stretches at home or need the assistance of a physical therapist at a clinic. Your healthcare provider will advise how long and how often you should practice these exercises, based on your individual symptoms and condition.
  • Ice, heat and massage can help relieve your symptoms. You’ll have to conduct your own trial to see if heat or cold best relieve your pain and discomfort. Apply heat or ice typically no more than 20 minutes at a time, several times a day. Massage is another option that may be tried in some patients. Ask your healthcare provide if this is a reasonable option for what’s causing your specific problem.
  • Oral medications: Depending on how much pain you’re in, a healthcare provider might recommend prescription or over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®) or naproxen sodium (Aleve®). Muscle relaxants such as cyclobenzaprine (Amrix®, Fexmid®) can treat muscle spasms. For severe arm pain from nerve impingement, gabapentin (Neurontin®) may reduce the pain.
  • Soft collar or brace: Your healthcare provider may recommend you wear a therapeutic collar for a short time. This can limit neck movement and help strained muscles rest and recuperate. Wearing a brace for too long can lead to muscle atrophy (wasting away). Only use a collar under the guidance of a medical professional.
  • Injection therapy: Steroids can be injected into the affected area of the spine. Injection medications can make your symptoms better for a short period of time. There are three common steroid injection procedures:
    • Cervical epidural block: Neck or arm pain due to cervical disk herniation can be treated with an injection of a combination of a steroid and anesthetic. The injection is made into the epidural space, which is the space next to the covering of the spinal cord.
    • Cervical facet joint block: This steroid plus anesthetic injection is made into small joints at the affected segments of the cervical spine.
    • Media branch block and radiofrequency ablation: This technique is used to both diagnosis and treat chronic neck pain. If pain is relieved with an injection of an anesthetic, that spot is identified for treatment. The treatment, called radiofrequency ablation, involves damaging the nerves with sound waves that are causing pain in the joint.

For the most severe cases of cervical spondylosis – including cervical myelopathy or cervical radiculopathy – your healthcare providers may consider surgery. Surgeries can involve removing bone spurs and fusing together the vertebrae or creating more room for the spinal cord by removing a portion of vertebrae.

Spine surgery is complex and may involve a lengthy recovery. Your healthcare provider will consider your symptoms, condition and overall health before deciding whether surgery may benefit you.

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