What is Cervical Osteophytosis: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Prognosis

What is Cervical Osteophytosis?

Osteophytosis is a condition in which there is protuberance of bone in the intervertebral ligaments at the point where they insert into the apophyseal rings of the vertebral body. They are also known by the name of bone spurs. Osteophytosis can occur at any joint in the body but are commonly seen in the spine and are considered to be a sign of degeneration. When the bone spurs develop in the cervical spine they are termed as Cervical Osteophytosis. In majority of the cases, Cervical Osteophytosis is asymptomatic and is not painful or affect the ability of the person to move the neck or function normally.[1,2,3]

What is Cervical Osteophytosis

However, at times these Cervical Osteophytosis can be painful. These symptoms wax and wane with painful periods returning every couple of years. Cervical Osteophytosis is a self-limiting condition and can be managed successfully by just resting and supportive measures. Cervical Osteophytosis, according to researchers, are believed to be a compensatory response to bone and ligament damage and is the body preventive mechanism at play to prevent further damage to the joints and bones.[1,2,3]

Since overuse is the primary cause of bone and joint damage, the cervical spine along with joints of the hands and fingers are more vulnerable to bone spurs than others. In some cases, a condition called osteomyelitis which is an infection of the bone is also one of the causes of Cervical Osteophytosis. In case these bony outgrowths start impinging on the nerves then the person with Cervical Osteophytosis may start experiencing symptoms of neuropathy as well.[1,2,3]

What Causes Cervical Osteophytosis?

The primary cause of Cervical Osteophytosis is believed to be osteoarthritis which is caused due to overuse. This condition is seen mostly in people above the age of 60 but younger people can get it if their joints get damaged due to an accident or injury. In a person with osteoarthritis, there is gradual degeneration of the ligaments.[3]

Due to this wearing out of the cartilage, the immune mechanism of the body reacts and new cartilage forms. This new cartilage is what is termed as bone spurs or osteophytes. In the cervical spine, bone spurs form when the spinal disks wear down and become thin resulting in Cervical Osteophytosis.[3]

What Are The Symptoms Of Cervical Osteophytosis?

In majority of the cases, Cervical Osteophytosis do not cause any symptoms and are not painful. Symptoms are only seen in people above the age of 60 and that too only in 40% of the population. In this age group, the Cervical Osteophytosis may be painful and it may become difficult to move the neck in either direction. If the osteophytes impinge on the nerve roots then the person may have symptoms of neuropathy to include pain, numbness, and tingling along the cervical spine.[3]

Thus if a person experiences the above mentioned symptoms for more than a couple of days then it is better to consult with a physician to rule out Cervical Osteophytosis. This is important as early detection and treatment of Cervical Osteophytosis is necessary to prevent further damage to the disks.[3]

How is Cervical Osteophytosis Treated?

In cases where Cervical Osteophytosis only causes mild symptoms and does not interfere with activities of daily living then over the counter pain medications are good enough for treatment of Cervical Osteophytosis. If there is swelling and inflammation present then the physician may prescribe a steroid shot to control it. At maximum, up to three shots are recommended.[3]

Additionally, physical therapy is extremely beneficial in strengthening the cervical spine and improving flexibility and mobility of the neck. In cases where a nerve is being compressed by an osteophyte then it needs to be addressed surgically. The surgery involves placement of a spacer in the affected vertebra to prevent the osteophyte from pressing the nerve and causing pain.[3]

Other than this, it is important to maintain a good posture and avoid flexing the neck excessively, especially when looking at the computer to maintain the cervical spine in proper alignment and prevent Cervical Osteophytosis.[3]

What Is The Prognosis Of Cervical Osteophytosis?

If surgery is required to treat Cervical Osteophytosis then it may take several weeks for the neck to feel normal again. If the condition is treated only with physical therapy and conservative treatments, then it should be noted that the osteophytes are still present and may act up in the future causing symptoms. However, if the person is aware of what exercises to do and how to maintain good posture of the neck then he or she may be able to minimize the impact on their quality of lives due to Cervical Osteophytosis.[3]