Cervical Spondylosis

Words: Dr Rajgopal NIDAMBOOR

It is possible that whosoever coined the oft-used locution, ‘pain in the neck,’ would have surely experienced how annoying and troublesome the agony can be — this could, perforce, be just one reason why all of us assign it to people, or tasks, that cause ‘distress,’ more so in a literal sense.

Statistics suggests that cervical spondylosis [CS] is one of the commonest causes of neck pain in people above the age of 50 — caused primarily due to so-called age-related changes, or ‘wear and tear,’ that occur in the backbone [vertebrae] of the neck region.

The Crux Of The Matter

Cervical spondylosis is derived from the Greek. It means neck [cervical] and vertebra [spondylo].

Age-related wear and tear can cause the joints between the vertebrae to degenerate. In addition, it may cause the gradual destruction of the intervertebral discs. Interestingly, most people above 40 demonstrate changes in the cervical spine on X-ray, though only a handful may experience any symptoms. However, by age 55-60, most of us may possibly experience a little discomfort — though not always owing to cervical spondylosis.

The condition affects men and women equally, though it ‘takes off’ much more early in men. CS usually runs a slow and progressive course.

Note: Long-standing degeneration of the vertebrae and the intervertebral discs may be caused by repeated trauma, poor posture, certain occupations, heredity, smoking too.

Symptoms

Neck pain and stiffness are the earliest presentations of cervical spondylosis. The pain may radiate [travel] from the neck to shoulders, arms, forearms, hands, lower part of the head, and upper back. Coughing, sneezing, and other movements of the neck may worsen symptoms. There may be abnormal sensations [tingling; numbness], loss of sensation, weakness in any of the above regions, or aside from them, too. Non-specific headaches in the lower part of the back of head, sensation of loss of balance, etc., are other features.

Diagnosis

A history of your complaints and physical examination findings often provide most of the details necessary to diagnosing cervical spondylosis. However, certain tests may be required to confirm the and/or to assess the extent of damage that has already occurred. They include X-ray of the cervical spine [neck], CT [computerised tomography] scan, MRI [magnetic resonance imaging] EMG [electromyogram], myelogram [X-ray, or CT scan, after a dye is injected into the spinal column].

Self-Help

A handful of dietary and lifestyle changes can help CS patients to control of their symptoms better. The following have been clinically verified, time and again, by physicians and nutritionists —

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Eat a varied diet, including plenty of calcium-rich foods [green leafy vegetables, ragi, etc.,]
  • Whole grains, fruits and vegetables should be taken in adequate amounts
  • Alcoholic beverages weaken bones. Consuming more than two alcoholic drinks per day increases a person’s chances of developing weakened bones; hence, this should be limited, or better avoided
  • Decrease your intake of saturated fat [dairy, red meat], salt and sugar
  • Exercise regularly to maintain neck strength, flexibility, and also range of motion
  • Always wear your seat belt while travelling in a car
  • When working on computer, or watching TV, take frequent breaks and avoid long periods of inactivity. Wear a cervical neck collar — it helps
  • Use a thin pillow and avoid placing more than one pillow under your head; sleep on a firm mattress.

Treatment

Ayurveda

Greeva stambha [a vataja disorder] simulates cervical spondylosis, a chronic degenerative condition of the cervical spine. Keeping in view the increasing incidence of this problem in modern society with more desk-workers, an observational study was conducted on 22 patients of greeva stambha vis-a-vis cervical spondylosis selected from OPD/IPD of CRIA, Punjabi-Bagh, New Delhi, satisfying the inclusion criteria. The vatahara treatment viz., Maha Yogaraj Guggulu 500mg [BD], Panchguna taila for local use and nadi sweda [local steam with Dashmoola kwatha] were given for seven days. The results were assessed on the basis of symptomatic improvement using visual analogue scale.

In the study, pain in the neck [at rest], headache and pain with neck movements, numbness/tingling sensation with, or without, weakness of arm and dizziness, were the commonly observed symptoms in patients. Most of the aforesaid symptoms were due to muscle spasm and nerve compression.

The results were assessed on the basis of symptomatic improvement using visual analogue scale. Improvement was observed in most of the symptoms with reduction in inflammation and spasm provided by vatahara treatment and nadi sweda [local heat].

  • Bharti, Shveta Katyal, et al, “Clinical Observation on Greeva Stambha [Cervical Spondylosis] Chikitsa,” AyuInternational Quarterly Journal of Research in Ayurveda, Apr-Jun; 31[2]: 218–222; 2010.

Homeopathy

Clinical studies have demonstrated the efficacy of homeopathy in the treatment of persistent musculoskeletal pain [such as that occurs in cervical spondylosis, besides many other conditions]. Homeopathic medicines, or remedies, offer significant pain control and improve the quality of life of patients. In addition, the treatment can also help slow down the progress of CS over a period of time.

Besides, other symptoms, such as tingling, numbness and weakness are also seen to improve in most cases. The mobility of the neck can get better too provided the disease has not progressed too far.

In advanced cases, where CS has caused significant damage already, it may only be possible to palliate the symptoms of the patient. In any case, it must be borne in mind that homeopathic treatment cannot reverse the physical damage that has already occurred — but can, at best, help in stalling the condition as also symptoms.

Yet another important point about homeopathic treatment is that it has no side-effects and completely safe and non-habit-forming.

Clinical Study 

Background. Homeopathic medicines are known to be effective in alleviating pain and other troublesome symptoms of patients suffering from cervical spondylosis.

Objective. The primary objective was to evaluate the effectiveness of predefined homeopathic medicines in the pain management of cervical spondylosis using the Cervical Spondylosis Pain Management Scale [CSPMS]. 

Methods. A prospective, double-blind randomised placebo-controlled multi-centric clinical trial was conducted from April 2012-May 2013. 

Results. 67 cases were enrolled in the homeopathy group and 69 in the placebo group. 134 cases that completed the follow-ups were analysed. The improvement in pain was 56.18 per cent in the homeopathy group and 46.45 per cent in the placebo group, as per CSPMS. The mean improvement between the groups was not significant: 60.36 per cent in the homeopathy group and 48.66 per cent in the placebo group. The mean score of quality of life, assessed using the ‘Patient’s Global Impression of Change Scale’ was 2.29 ± 1.90 quality of life in the homeopathy group and 2.93 ± 2.28 in the placebo group. There was 27.95 per cent more improvement in the homeopathy group, as compared to the placebo group. Among the most used medicines were Rhus toxicodendron [n = 19], 28.8 per cent, Calcarea carbonica [n = 7], 10.6 per cent, Kalmia latifolia [n = 7], 10.6 per cent, and Paris quadrifolia [n = 8], 12.1 per cent.

Conclusion. Homeopathic medicines are effective in the management of acute pain due to cervical spondylosis.

  • Gupta J, Bawaskar R, et al. “Homeopathic Therapy in Cervical Spondylosis Pain Management: A Randomised, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial.” Indian J Res Homeopathy, 14:242-50; 2020.

Nutrition

  • Calcium, magnesium, vitamin E and fish oils [omega-3] are often useful to easing your cervical pain
  • B vitamins: They are shown to help with neurological function
  • Potassium can help with chronic neck pain. Potassium decreases muscle fatigue and spasm. It can be found in sweet potatoes and bananas. Adding them to your diet is an easy way to help decrease your neck pain
  • Inflammation can make neck pain much worse. Simple ways to help decrease the inflammatory response through your diet is to cut down on foods that increase the body’s response, such as sugar, processed food, and Night Shades. Add turmeric, found in curry, or in its natural root form. You can add green tea too. Green tea helps you to relax; it also helps to decrease your body’s natural inflammatory response.
Dr RAJGOPAL NIDAMBOOR, PhD, is a wellness physician-writer-editor, independent researcher, critic, columnist, author and publisher. His published work includes hundreds of newspaper, magazine, web articles, essays, meditations, columns, and critiques on a host of subjects, eight books on natural health, two coffee table tomes and an encyclopaedic treatise on Indian philosophy. He is Chief Wellness Officer, Docco360 — a mobile health application/platform connecting patients with Ayurveda, homeopathic and Unani physicians, and nutrition therapists, among others, from the comfort of their home — and, Editor-in-Chief, ThinkWellness360.

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