Cervical spondylitis is a condition in which the bones, joints and discs in the neck go through a change, which happens as a result of age-related wear and tear. As you start to age, the discs that are located in the cervical spine start to break down and lose their fluid. As a result, they become stiff and cause pain, overall stiffness and discomfort.
'Spondylo' is a Greek word-meaning vertebra. Spondylitis means changes in the vertebral joint characterized by increasing degeneration of the intervertebral disc with subsequent changes in the bones and soft tissues.
Cervical spondylitis happens because of long-term, or chronic, degeneration, or wear-and-tear of the cervical spine. A previous neck injury may also cause eventual cervical spondylitis.
Some long-term activities, such as carrying axial loads, practicing martial arts, or being a professional dancer or gymnast, may increase the risk of developing cervical spondylitis.
In most cases, patients just experience a pain in the neck and some stiffness, and they may have the occasional headache.
Neck pain may spread from the neck to reach the shoulders, arms and hands, and the base of the skull. The pain may be worse when the head is moved.
Neck stiffness is more common after a long period of inactivity, for example, after sleeping.
Headaches tend to start at the back of the head and then gradually move to the upper half of the front.
The brain can be affected if blood vessels are compressed, as this can affect the blood supply to the brain. This may result in dizziness, and even blackouts.
Other, less frequent, problems may include loss of bowel or bladder function and coordination difficulties. Arms and legs may become weak, and there may be lack of dexterity. Some people may have dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing, if the bones press against the oesophagus.
One of the main factors that could put you at risk of cervical spondylitis is if you have suffered an injury to your neck area. This could be due to a fall or a sudden jerk in your neck while you are traveling.