The person who coined the term ‘Pain in the neck’ must have surely experienced how annoying and troublesome neck pain can be and may be this is why he assigned it to people or tasks that cause trouble.
Affirming the same, statistics actually show that Cervical Spondylitis is indeed the commonest cause of neck pain in people above the age of 55 years! It goes without saying that this condition is mainly caused by age-related changes due to wear and tear that occur in the backbone (vertebrae) of the neck region.
Homeopathy can offer significant pain relief as well as good control of the other symptoms associated with this condition. At Dr. Batra's, our experience and expertise in treating this condition for the past 35 years has helped us to give good results in most cases. The holistic treatment at Dr. Batra's has helped many patients to achieve good pain control and lead a better quality of life.
What is Cervical Spondylitis?
“Neck pain due to wear and tear”
Cervical Spondylitis (also called Cervical Spondylosis) is derived from Greek words that mean neck (cervical) and vertebra (spondylo). Thus it’s a condition caused by wear and tear that occurs at the backbone (vertebral column) in the neck region.
Vertebrae are bones that join together to form the entire backbone. In between the vertebrae are cushion-like structures called “intervertebral discs”. Age related wear and tear can cause the joints between the vertebrae to degenerate. In addition, it also causes the gradual destruction of the intervertebral discs.
The aforementioned changes can cause pain in the affected region (in this case the neck). When the nerve roots start getting pressed upon due to these changes, it can lead to symptoms of nerve compression.
Interestingly, most of the people above 40 years of age demonstrate changes in the cervical spine on the X-ray though very few experience symptoms due to this. However, by the age of 55 to 60 years, most of the people experience at least some level of discomfort due to cervical spondylitis. The X-ray changes are seen in almost 90% of the people above 60 years of age, irrespective of their sex.
The condition affects males and females equally though it takes off earlier in males. It usually runs a slow and progressive course.
What triggers off the pain in the neck?
Long standing degeneration (wearing away) of the vertebrae and the intervertebral discs is the primary cause behind this disorder. Now this can be triggered due to a number of reasons such as:
- Advancing age
- History of neck injury in the past
- Occupational trauma – lifting heavy loads on head, gymnastics, working on the computer for long hours
- Sleeping in sitting position repetitively during journeys
- Occupations requiring minute concentration wherein people work with bent neck for long time
- Holding the telephone between the ears and shoulders for long durations repeatedly
- Any kind of odd postures that put a strain on the neck – when these are taken up over and again, they can lead to progressive degenerative changes
- Congenitally fused spine, Cerebral Palsy, Down syndrome may be risk factors for developing cervical spondylitis
- Genetic cause may be possible since cases running in families have been seen
- Smoking may be one of the risk factors
Whatever be the trigger for cervical spondylitis, the common changes that are seen in the cervical spine are as follows:
- Abnormal growths or ‘spurs’ on the vertebrae
- Dehydration and subsequent loss of elasticity in the intervertebral discs
- Bulging of the discs from between two vertebrae
- Stiffness of neck ligaments (tissue connecting the neck bones and muscles)
The neck hurts so much!
Neck pain and stiffness is one of the earliest presentations of cervical spondylitis. Some of the characteristic features of this condition are:
- Chronic or episodic pain and stiffness in the neck and shoulder region
- The pain tends to get worse over a period of time
- There may be periods initially when the pain disappears completely; later as the disease advances the pain may remain persistent
- Pain may radiate (travel) from neck to shoulders, arms, forearms, hands, lower part of the head, upper back
- Coughing, sneezing, other movements of the neck may worsen symptoms
- Along with pain, there may be abnormal sensations (tingling numbness), loss of sensation, weakness in any of the above regions
- There may be non-specific headaches in the lower part of the back of head
- Sensation of loss of balance
- Loss of control over the bladder or bowels (if the spinal cord is compressed)
- Occasionally there may be atypical pain presenting as chest pain or breast pain (false angina)
The doctor may find certain clear pointers to this disease on examination of the patient:
- Spasm of the neck muscles
- Limited range of movements of the neck – bending forward, backward, sideways, rotating the head are all limited
- Weakness of muscles of the arms, forearms
- Altered sensation in the shoulder region, arms, forearms, neck, etc.
- Reflexes are often reduced
Diagnosis and Tests
How would you know its Cervical Spondylitis?
The history of your complaints and the examination findings often provide most of the details necessary to diagnose cervical spondylitis. However, some tests may be required to confirm the diagnosis as well as to assess the extent of damage that has already occurred. It can also be used to track the progress of the condition over a period of time.
Here are some of the tests that can be done to confirm the diagnosis:
- X-ray of the cervical spine (neck) – detects the development of spurs (bony outgrowths) on the vertebrae
- CT (Computerized Tomography) scan
- MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) spine – determines the extent of neural damage, if any
- EMG – Electromyogram – to detect abnormal muscle electrical activity in case of nerve affection
- X-ray or CT scan after dye is injected into the spinal column (myelogram)
In majority of the cases, the history, examination findings and X-ray usually suffice for diagnosing cervical spondylitis.
How bad can it get?
Cervical spondylitis can cause increased pressure on the spinal cord over a period of time and this is one of the major complications. It can result in symptoms such as:
- Inability to control the passage of stools (fecal incontinence)
- Inability to control the passage of urine (urinary incontinence)
- Progressive loss of muscle function
- Loss of sensations of the skin
- Unsteady gait
- Spastic movements
- Permanent disability (rare)
Controlling the damage and easing the pain
Clinical studies have demonstrated the efficacy of homeopathy in the treatment of persistent musculoskeletal pain (such as that which occurs in cervical spondylitis besides many other conditions). The medicines can offer significant pain control and improve the quality of life of patients.
At Dr. Batra's, we have successfully treated many cases of cervical spondylitis over the last 35 years and have given relief from suffering to a large number of patients. Many of our patients report a better quality of life in general after starting homeopathic treatment at Dr. Batra's clinics.
Homeopathy indeed has substantial relief to offer to patients of cervical spondylitis. The medicines provide with significant relief in the pain and stiffness that is associated with the disease. In addition, the treatment can also help to slow down the progress of the ailment over a period of time.
Besides the above, other symptoms such as tingling, numbness and weakness are also seen to improve in most cases. Range of mobility of the neck can get better too provided the disease has not progressed too far.
In advanced cases where the disease has cause significant damage already, it may only be possible to palliate the symptoms of the patient. In any case, it must be borne that the treatment cannot reverse the physical damage that has already occurred to the system but can only help in controlling the symptoms.
The important point about the treatment is that it has no side-effects whatsoever and is completely safe and non habit-forming. Homeopathy is strongly suggested for all cases of cervical spondylitis especially those of recent origin.
At Dr. Batra's, we have the experience of treating patients of cervical spondylitis for more than 35 years and based on the same, we have found a few dietary and lifestyle changes that make a lot of difference to the patients and help them be in better control of their illness. These tips have been clinically verified time and again by our physicians and nutritionists and have been summarized here:
- Maintain a healthy weight; los that extra weight, if any
- Eat a varied diet including plenty of calcium rich foods (sesame seeds, green leafy vegetables, ragi)
- 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 and hence this should be limited
- Decrease your intake of saturated fat (dairy, red meat), salt and sugar
- Exercise regularly to maintain neck strength, flexibility, range of motion
- Always wear your seat belt while travelling in a car
- When working on a computer or watching TV, take frequent breaks and avoid long periods of inactivity
- Use thin pillow and avoid placing more than one pillow under your head, sleep on a firm mattress