Cervical spondylosis: Exercises, treatment, and symptoms

Cervical spondylosis is a condition that causes deterioration of the vertebrae, discs, and ligaments in the neck or cervical spine.

Other names are arthritis of the neck, cervical osteoarthritis, or degenerative osteoarthritis.

The cervical spine refers to the seven small vertebrae that form the neck. They start at the base of the skull.

In cervical spondylosis, the edges of the vertebrae often develop bone spurs called osteophytes. Over time, the discs get thinner, and their ability to absorb shock is lost, increasing the risk of symptoms.

Swollen neck joints, called facet joints, can press or pinch nearby nerve roots or the spinal cord itself, resulting in tingling or “pins and needles” in the extremities and sometimes even pain in the limbs.

In some cases, there may be a loss of feeling and coordination. Some people may have difficulty walking.

Most people experience degenerative changes as they get older. The AAOS add that over 85 percent of people over the age of 60 years live with cervical spondylosis.

Fast facts on cervical spondylosis

Nearly 85 percent of people over the age of 60 years live with cervical spondylosis, but not all of them experience pain.

A range of neck-stretching exercises can help to relieve stiffness and pain.

Muscle relaxants, steroid injections, and physical therapy can help ease symptoms. In severe cases, surgical options are also available.

Symptoms can include weakness and pain. In severe cases, the disc can press on a nerve and cause loss of consciousness and mobility issues.


Physical therapy being performed by sports therapist on mature man's neck.
Cervical spondylosis may be treated with simple neck exercises, under the guidance of a doctor.

A person can ease the symptoms of cervical spondylosis with a few simple neck exercises.

Neck stretch

Keep your body straight.

Push your chin forward in a way that stretches the throat.

Softly tense the neck muscles.

Hold this for 5 seconds.

Return your head to its center position.

Push your head back with the chin held high, and hold for 5 seconds.

Carry out 5 repetitions.

Neck tilt

Tilt your head forward so that the chin touches the chest.

Softly tense the neck muscles.

Hold this for 5 seconds.

Return the head to a neutral position.

Carry out 5 repetitions.

Neck tilt (side-to-side)

Lean your head down towards either shoulder, leading with the ear.

Softly tense the neck muscles.

Hold this for 5 seconds.

Return your head to the center and repeat on the other shoulder.

Carry out 5 repetitions.

Neck turn

Turn your head to one side as far as it remains comfortable, being sure to keep your chin at a level height.

Tense your neck muscles for 5 seconds.

Return the head to a central position.

Repeat on the opposite side.

Repeat this exercise 5 times on each side.

These exercises can help to moderate the impact of the condition and alleviate pain or feelings of stiffness. However, they will not cure cervical spondylosis.


Cervical spondylosis occurs because of long-term degeneration and wear-and-tear of the cervical spine. A previous neck injury may also lead to the condition.

Some long-term activities may increase the risk of developing cervical spondylosis, such as carrying heavy loads, practicing martial arts, or being a professional dancer or gymnast.

Some researchers say that there could be a genetic cause because the condition sometimes runs in families.

It usually starts to appear afer the age of 40 years, and it progresses over time. Men usually develop it at an earlier age than women.

Smoking may also increase the risk.

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Sometimes, the symptoms of pain and stiffness continue to get worse, and nerve problems can occur.

Surgery may be an option if the person experiences:

persistent neck pain that radiates down the arm

a loss of sensation

muscle weakness

a loss of bowel or bladder function

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