Cervical spondylosis is the medical term for neck pain caused by age-related ‘wear and tear’  to bones and tissues.

The most common symptoms of cervical spondylosis are neck pain, stiffness and headaches. More rarely, it can trap nerves in the neck, leading to:

  • pain radiating from the arms
  • pins and needles in the arms and legs
  • loss of feeling in your hands and legs
  • loss of co-ordination and difficulty walking

However, many people with cervical spondylosis experience no noticeable symptoms.

Read more about the symptoms of cervical spondylosis.

Treating cervical spondylosis

In most cases, the symptoms of cervical spondylosis can be relieved using a combination of:

In a small number of cases, surgery may be required to remove or repair a damaged section of the cervical spine (see below).

Read more about the treatment of cervical spondylosis.

What causes cervical spondylosis?

As people get older, the effects of ageing and everyday use causes wear to the joints and tissues that make up the spine. For example, the discs of the spine can dry out and shrink, and the ligaments can stiffen.

In all the body's joints, there is a constant process of "wear and repair" happening, as the joints adapt to the stresses and strains of normal everyday life.

Cervical spondylosis occurs when the balance of "wear and repair" is lost, leading to pain and stiffness in the neck.

Read more about the causes of cervical spondylosis.

Who is affected

Cervical spondylosis is a very common condition. It's estimated that 9 out of 10 adults will have some degree of cervical spondylosis by the time they are 60 years old (but many will not have any noticeable symptoms).


The outlook for most cases of cervical spondylosis is generally good. Most cases respond well to treatment after a few weeks, though it can be common for symptoms to reoccur later.

In around 1 in 10 cases, a person can go on to develop long-term (chronic) neck pain. 

Cervical spondylosis is an age-related condition that can cause stiffness and pain in the neck  

The cervical spine

The top section of the spine, known as the cervical spine, runs from the base of the skull and down through the neck.

The cervical spine is made up of:

  • vertebrae – wedge-shaped sections of bone
  • discs – protective, circular pads of tissue found between each vertebrae
  • ligaments – cords of tissue that connect one bone to another

In addition, a bundle of nerves runs through a tunnel within the spine (the spinal cord). 

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Page last reviewed: 12/09/2014

Next review due: 12/07/2017