Cervical spondylosis - Symptoms 

Symptoms of cervical spondylosis 

The most common symptoms of cervical spondylosis are neck pain and stiffness.

Occasional headaches may also occur, which usually start at the back of the head, just above the neck, and travel over the top to the forehead.

Pain usually comes and goes, with flare-ups followed by symptom-free periods.

Around 1 in 10 people develop long-lasting (chronic) pain.

Other, more severe, symptoms usually only occur if:

  • a slipped disc or other bone pinches or irritates a nearby nerve (known as cervical radiculopathy)
  • the spinal canal (bones that surround and protect the nerves) becomes narrower, compressing the spinal cord inside (known as cervical myelopathy)

These problems are described in more detail below.

Cervical radiculopathy

The most common symptom of cervical radiculopathy is a sharp pain that ‘travels’ down one of your arms. (This pain is also known as brachialgia).

You may also experience some numbness or ‘pins and needles’ in the affected arm and find that stretching your neck and turning your head makes the pain worse.

Cervical myelopathy

Cervical myelopathy occurs when severe cervical spondylosis causes narrowing of the spinal canal (also known as stenosis) and compression of the spinal cord.

When the spinal cord is compressed, it interferes with the signals that travel between your brain and the rest of your body. Symptoms can include:

  • a lack of co-ordination, for example you may find tasks such as buttoning a shirt increasingly difficult
  • heaviness or weakness in your arms or legs
  • problems walking
  •  less commonly, urinary incontinence
    (loss of bladder control)
  • bowel incontinence (loss of bowel control)

If you think you are experiencing symptoms of cervical myelopathy you should see your GP as soon as possible.

Left untreated, cervical myelopathy can lead to permanent spinal cord damage and long-term disability.


Page last reviewed: 18/06/2012

Next review due: 18/06/2014

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The 28 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Jeannette50 said on 11 April 2014

I have always found Youtube a good source - both for exercise and relief techniques. Good Physio advice should also be sought - your GP will only hand out the pills - and mostly that is not the best option.

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Lizconvery said on 28 March 2014

Hi I have just been diagnosed last year with cervical spondylosis. I am currently off work due to waiting over ten months for a chair to ease my symptoms at work. This last two weeks have been a nightmare I have vertigo. I had this four years ago but not like this, it was not until I read the posts that I realised this could be to do with my neck. I took stemitil previously which helped my vertigo but on this occasion they are not helping me. It was so bad yesterday I was crawling on the floor as I could not stand up, I feel worse not better, I can normally cope with the pain but this is something else. Can anybody give some advice, it would be most appreciated.

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PHH said on 28 December 2013

I have recently discovered that I am suffering from this condition. I started with pins & needles in my hands & thought I had bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome, however when I went for physiotherapy it was hinted at that I might have a problem with my neck.
I had fallen at work & had not thought twice about it, it was only 3 months down the line that I realised that all my symptoms had started since this fall.
I am on gabapentin 600mg TDS, Tramadol 100mg QDS, Amitrptyline 30mg at night.
I have had initial physio which proved useless, I have spent over £800 on a chiropractor (who got rid of the pins & needles),
However, the pain - is absolutely unbearable at times, my arms are weak, my fingers are stiff & swell up.
I am unable to do my job in the NHS & am worried about the future as my sick pay runs out soon.
When I went back to the GP at 5 months to ask to be referred to a pain clinic - she said - let's do physio again first.
I have since found out that my PCT has maxed out on the funding for the pain clinic.
I told her my sick pay runs out in march - it made no difference.
My husband is so concerned about the amount of tablets I'm taking he's going to accompany me to my next GP clinic - I'm going to ask to be referred to a neurologist, I have become so desperate.
At times I feel like I can't get out of bed, I feel so desperate.
I want to go back to my job, which involves bending / twisting & turning - but somehow I don't think this is going to happen.

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User234618 said on 30 October 2013

Over 2 years now since an accident at work started me down this horrible road that is Spondylosis. Almost 2 weeks ago I suddenly became dizzy and have stayed that way. I went to Dr's and he gave me some tablets that he told me would clear up the vertigo, but had no effect. Went back to see him and he has put me on Amitriptyline 10mg, which makes me feel drugged up but have read that low doses like 10mg help the pain! But what about the dizziness; that is what I went to see the GP about?? They are not bothered are they? GP's earn too much money, too easily, in my opinion. They should be on performance related pay lol ..... I am worried about the future as I am getting so down and depressed yet can't quit work as we cannot claim benefits. Why not?? Fed up!!

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timtwo64 said on 07 October 2013

10 mths after acdf. I still have pain,stiffness and pins and needles have been on meds for 2yrs now

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capper said on 15 April 2013

Been suffering for years with spondy getting worse tried physio waste of time on tramadol for pain neck pain headaches shoulder pain. Nothing stops pain any more just got to put up with it being dizzy and vertigo, now the doctors have a new system cant make an appointment any more you have to phone and you are then told a doctor will phone you to see if you can have an appointment. So you have to sit around for hours waiting for a phone call it is getting worse why would I ask for an appointment if I wasn't ill. NHS is going to pot

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pathelrick said on 22 November 2012

Hi Juney2. I was diagnosed with CS many years ago most likely following a whiplash accident.
Now in my 70th year I have suddenly started having very bad Vertigo attacks almost daily with increased neck pain.
I have had major ear problems, with a choleastoma op last year then a bad ear infection recently that made me think it was that. Vertigo being an occasional problem but now absolutely terrible plus a really vile vomiting session this week.
I am seeing my ent specialist will enquire further. Your comments make me feel it is your situation

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ilovebeinganurse said on 22 October 2012

I have a herniated disk at C5-C6 level. I have this persistant cough in the colder months. Does anyone else have a problem related to this or could it be something else.

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juney2 said on 07 September 2012

Hi, I was diagnosed with C spondylosis when I was 28 Im now 50! in the last 2 years i have had an mri scan to see what was going on with me, im getting worse, when my condition started the vertigo also came on and its a nightmare, i suffer from heavy arms and legs and recently get muscle spasm and tremor, I also developed problems swallowing and was admitted to hos. to be told my muscles in my gullet are not working as they should, and my tongue is cramping and swelling too which is freaking me out, has anyone else had this as i did ask if it might be related to my condition and was told no.

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woody1955 said on 02 August 2012

I was a bus driver for 23 years and suffered with neck pain and tingling in my left hand for years which my GP ascribed to "wear and tear".3 years ago I developed severe vertigo which has been with me ever since,and which meant my PCV license was up the creek.After 2 years ,5 different GPs and 2 consultants(ENT) plus several weeks of physio to "retrain my balance"a new GP decided that maybe an X-ray might be useful.This showed that I have bone spurs on my neck vertebrae(osteophytes) which are the cause of the vertigo.My GP described it as arthritis,but having read the posts here,I recognize many of the symptoms.Not sure if Spondylosis and my problem are the same or just have similar symptoms.
I've been out of work and living on a small company pension for 3 years now.I've applied for jobs but I realise the vertigo makes me a liability in the eyes of prospective employers(I have the symptoms every day varying from slight,as though I'd had a couple of pints,to having to hold on to furniture to get round the house.
There seems to be no recognition that this is a blight on the sufferers life.I can't claim any benefit other than housing benefit, so I'm sort of just getting by.Don't know how some of the posters here who've suffered for much longer than I have cope.3 years and I'm climbing the walls

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bones1963 said on 24 June 2012

Hi guys.... well my symptons have become worse whereby I am now experiencing severe pain in both ears to the point I am in tears, also severe pain in my left eye. My gp had me on antibiotics even though I knew it wasn't going to work and I told her that it was due to the spondy as I now call it lol... Anyway went on meds and didn't work, now been prescribes Gabapentin - low dosage and am awaiting to see my neurologist again. I am also experiencing pain to the front lower part of my neck for over 4 weeks now, have been on a forum and this part could be due to stress/anxiety but either way this is not nice at all as the neck pain is sooo painful especially when swallowing as it feels like I have a lump stuck down there. Will keep you all updated after I have seen my neurologist. xx

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Mitch 1969 said on 13 December 2011

Cervical Spondylosis is a term meaning degeneration of the spine and is not a specific diagnosis.
Several years ago I sustained a disc prolapse at C5/6 and shoulder injuries following an RTA. I underwent conservative treatment at a Pain Clinic, Nerve Root Block, Denervation and epidural, etc, to try to resolve my long term cervical radiculopathy (pain, numbness, pins and needles). Two years later, I had an Anterior Cervical Discectomy and fusion at that level(to remove the disc) but the op didn't resolve my symptoms at all.
Im on a lot of medication, including Naproxen, Gabapentin, Baclofen ( an MS drug used to help reduce muscle spasms), Amitriptyline at night, Durogesic Fentanyl patches ( a v Strong opiod) and Cyclizine( an anti- emetic). I use Oramorph for breakthrough pain( pain not covered by normal doses of meds). I have debilitating nerve pain and can feel it from my neck to my hands. Muscle spasms in my head and spine, along with upper and lower back pain. My walking is often affected. My hands swell and I cannot feel the backs of them as before. I have trouble with my dexterity ( had carpal tunnel surgery too), all this has stopped me from continuing an Open University Degree in Law ( for the moment hopefully).
I have been like this for several years and had to retire from my career at 37 years old. My quality of life is severely affected at times and I spend lots of my time in bed recovering from normal activities such as shopping and visiting friends. Depression has affected me and it does go hand in hand with chronic pain.
Other sufferers of chronic pain should explore a referral to a Pain Clinic. The staff are so used to dealing with chronic pain. GP's are very good at dealing with this subject but don't have the time and resources available at the specialist clinic.
Its hard but keep strong and find the expert help you need.

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paininthenck said on 26 November 2011

as bones1963 stated , which i couldnt have put better myself , the numbness in face , lip and yeh the creepy crawly feeling on scalp , so pleased some else mentioned that as im bald , and thought i was goin mad ... seeing my consultant on monday for the first time , but dont out any hope on remedy for the condition , judging on others comments .... seems like it just gets dismissed , just get given loads of meds and hope for the best ! we,ll cant go on like this

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Jamosc said on 22 November 2011

I was diagnosed with a herniated disc in c6/7 in 2001 which caused numbness and burning in my right arm. It also triggered a series of nerve problems in my legs face and arms and a seriously stiff neck. I had to quit my job and fell into depression. Luckily I found a physio who showed me a range of exercises to help strengthen the muscles but it has taken me 10 years to get to a stage where I am comfortable with my problem. No matter how painful your back is you have to exercise and stretch the spine. Start small movements first. Take up Pilates or yoga regularly and you should see some improvement. You will not see instant results if you have debilitating pain. I still suffer after 10 years but it is much more manageable. Pain killers only help with pain not with trying to eliminates the cause which is usually poor posture and lazy back muscles.

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cuddles4ever said on 15 November 2011

I was diagnosed with Cervical Spondilosis and fibromyalgia some 15 or so years ago and have been struggling with dizziness and fainting spells all my life. Some of this was due to hypotension, but although I am getting meds to raise my BP it makes little difference to these episodes. I now get a lot of sudden weakness in my legs as well which is quite irritating for me as I'm quite independent and hate being a burden on anyone. My doctors have been of little use to me so far and I have been kept in the dark about a lot of my treatments, including my B12 injections, which they now tell me I don't need as often as I was originally told. I am so fed up with getting the run around without actually getting answers, that I am requesting copies of my med records so I can see for myself what the docs have kept from me and see if I can find at least some answers. I'm on Tramadol, Pre-Gabalin, Co-codamol and Naprosyn as well as Fludrocortisone. None of the meds make any significant difference but they do seem to take the edge of my pain.
I think doctors need to spend a little more time listening to their patients properly, doing physical exams, reading med records thoroughly and putting the pieces together instead of looking at each symptom individually. They also need to do research on subjects they are unsure or have little knowledge of.

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User234618 said on 12 November 2011

Wednesday was diagnosed with:

"Spondylotic disease C5 / C6 with Arteriol osteophytic spurring
NO OTHER FINDINGS."

If I believe what the NHS writes on this site about my 'disease' then 'everyone' has it don't they?

No but it will stop me being able to claim benefits won't it?

I have been in agony 24/7 for last 4 weeks and have had to invoke the involvement of my MP so far twice to
A) Get an appointment to see an Osteopath, and
B) To get the surgery to actually make the bloody appointment for me!

I feel I've been handed a lingering death sentence and the NHS couldn't care less and will fight to keep me from getting the help I need or access to benefits to live if unable to support myself.

I teach and spent 2.5 hours Thursday evening preparing a lesson with resources; the pain was excruciating. My neck went into spasms and was totally rigid; it felt like my head was going to explode/fall off!! If this is how it is going to be for me, how can I continue working in what many agree to be one of the most difficult and stressful jobs on the planet?

Spent most of today, Saturday, in tears and terribly depressed. Frightened and worried about the 'future'; do I have one?

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bernie2006 said on 08 November 2011

I have been suffering form cervical spondylosis with chronic nerve pain for years. Recently my symptoms have got much worse with: chronic head & neck pain, arm pain, finger pain, pain down my legs also pain in my buttocks and bust. I have been treated with tramadol for the Osteoarthritis and ibuprofen & paracetamol every 3 hours, also I am taking 3x400mg of Gamapentin 4 times a day to treat the nerve pain as other medications do nothing for nerve pain. I also suffer from dizzy spells. Why is it there is no support for people such as us if Osteoarthritis affects so many people how come there is very little support. I think that I am now suffering from depression as I am crying nearly all the time over what seems to be trivial things. I recently applied for disability living allowance and was turned down has anyone else here been able to claim. I have been signed off of work for six weeks but my condition is not improving where do I go from here??

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bones1963 said on 03 November 2011

All on here. I know we have no cure for what we are all experiencing and from my own experience whereby people that do not understand what we are going through, I do find that rather than let myself get tooo stressed out I just have a major good old cry and even venting helps, This helps to relieve your own tension. Also keep yourself warm as the cold will affect you.

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bones1963 said on 03 November 2011

aj63. Yes they sympons as like vertigo are part and parcel of one of the symptoms as confirmed by my own GP.

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bones1963 said on 03 November 2011

Tony, I too also suffer with c. Spon and I too suffer quite badly. I was diagnosed around 2006. I have numbness in the left of my face, in my bottom left lip and a creepy crawly feeling in the left of my scalp region, I lose my balance all the time, sickness, severe headaches, tingling in my fingers, heavy arms, amongst other symptoms. Not everyone suffers with the same symptoms at any one time. Lack of sleep is a big problem too. I have been back to see my GP and was informed that it has become worse and that there are no meds that really help, but I have been told to continue to take my tramadol, ibuprofen and paracetamol all of which I feel don't really help me. I find complete rest laying down helps but one can't lay dowm permanently. My episodes - as I call them can last up to 4mths at one time. Right now i'm suffering quite badly whereby if I look straight ahead it eases but as soon as I turn they everything starts to spin, I am now experiencing problems when credits run on programmes and the scenes change, this makes my dizzyness worse, it's a debilitating condition with no cure. I was also told that any kind of stress whether internal or external will make matters worse and is irreversible when it happens. If anyone wishes to take further then please reply.

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den1951 said on 27 October 2011

I have just joined this site and was surprised to read the comments from people with the same condition as myself.I was dianosed with sponalosis about 5 years ago.About 1 year ago I to began having bad dizzy spells and they became so bad that I had to close my business down.After a long wait for an appointment I was refered to ENT which I kept saying to my GP ,it has nothing to do with that ,its my neck causing this problem, but like everyone else ,you are ignored because medical research says we who suffer from this know nothing.

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champagnebabe said on 11 October 2011

i can empathise,i have collapsed disc c5 c6, all sorts of other problems like vertigo all last year nox back and side pain with numbness, they have said theres no connection to bppv and the neck but i have discovered otherwise. there must be other things or treatments i have heaard yoga and pilates is good

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aj63 said on 10 October 2011

I was diagnosed with cervical Spondylosis in 2005 recently it has flared up again and I have the nornal symptoms of neck pain, tingling down mainly my left arm and into my hand....I have also suffered on and off with vertigo and wondered if this could be related to my neck...everytine I asked I was told no...I have has several tests including being assessed in the vestibular clinic where they could find no reason for my verigo symptoms...then I read an article which claimed that dizziness when bending or turning your head can suggest that the vertebral artery which supplied blood to the brain is being temporarily nipped due to the degenerative changes in the spine causing dizzy spells.....although I have been made to feel like I am nuts at times for suggesting that both conditions are linked I feel convinced that they are.

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lynfa said on 06 June 2011

After 21 years suffering from vertigo/tinnitis triggered after excessive neck/back activity eg: ironing with neck bent/computer too long etc I truly believe my vertigo is brought on after these activities as a lack of blood flow to my brain. My last MRI was not explained to me but the conclusion was: Multilevel non-compressive degenerative intervertebral disc disease. I am assuming this is spondylosis or osteoporosis. A dibilitating long illness which lasts 2 to 4 months at a time.

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lynfa said on 06 June 2011

I have had vertigo/tinnitus after my neck/back pain starts for 21 years. My latest MRI was not explained to me but the conclusion was: Multilevel non-compressive degenerative intervertebral disc disease along spinal column. I am assuming this is either Spondylosis or osteoporosis. After having this for so long and never fails to appear after episodes of excessive activity, eg :ironing with neck bent etc, I truly believe there is a lack of blood getting to my brain causing the vertigo and I am in pain and off work 3 months at a time.

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tony21 said on 16 March 2011

regading your comments on common myths relating to dizziness when suffering from cervical spondylosis as i have been suffering from cervical spodalosis for over 3 years i can comfirm that i have recently been suffering dizziness, brought on by my spondylosis and the comments made have obviousely been made by some one who does not suffer from spondylosis and has no idear what they are talking about

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shocknails said on 23 February 2011

I've been suffering with this for years and the thing is it is getting worse and now I discover that the pins and needles and the numbness are all to do with this also the heavyness in my legs and sometimes my arms too! sometimes my fingers swell up like I've put on rubber gloves a size too small and can't bend them. The thing is my G.P has never explained any of this to me and leads me to believe this is all in my Head!! including loads of Migrine attacks that sometimes go on for days and the meds don't help at all sometimes. IS IT wonder I'm deppressed? I think I need to change My G.P!

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tonylw1 said on 11 July 2010

the pain spreads to my ears and above eye . it started 4 years ago took anadin but now have stomach ulcer doc pre scribed co codamol but has not much relief constant pain both sides of neck and headache living on paracetamol

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