Cervical Spondylosis Symptoms: What You Need To Know

What Is Cervical Spondylosis?

Cervical spondylosis is a common, age-related condition that affects the joints and discs in the cervical spine, which is located in the neck. Over time, the cartilage and bones of the cervical spine can wear down, leading to symptoms such as neck pain and stiffness.

This condition is most prevalent among individuals over the age of 50, although it can occur in younger people as well.

As we age, the discs between the vertebrae lose hydration and elasticity, leading to disc degeneration. Similarly, the cartilage that cushions the joints of the spine can deteriorate over time as well.

Understanding Cervical Spondylosis Symptoms

Cervical spondylosis symptoms can vary significantly among individuals, influenced by the severity of the degeneration, the specific areas of the cervical spine affected, and individual factors such as overall health and lifestyle.

The condition typically develops slowly, with symptoms gradually worsening over time. In some cases, symptoms may remain stable for years without significant changes.

Identifying Symptoms

The primary symptom of cervical spondylosis is neck pain, which can range from mild discomfort to severe pain. The pain may be localised to the neck or may radiate to the arms or shoulders. It can be exacerbated by certain movements or positions, such as looking up or down for extended periods.

Other common symptoms include:

  • Stiffness in the neck, making it difficult to turn the head.
  • Headaches that originate at the back of the head.
  • A grinding or popping sensation when moving the neck.

Less common symptoms include:

  • Numbness or weakness in the arms, hands, legs, or feet.
  • Lack of coordination and difficulty walking.
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control, in severe cases.

Factors Influencing the Severity of Symptoms

Several factors can influence the severity and progression of symptoms in individuals with cervical spondylosis, including:

  • The extent of degeneration and the number of vertebral levels involved.
  • The presence of other underlying conditions, such as diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Lifestyle factors, such as physical activity levels and occupation-related neck strain.
  • Previous neck injuries, which may accelerate the degenerative process.

It’s important to note that the severity of cervical spondylosis on imaging does not always correlate with the severity of symptoms.

Some individuals may have significant degeneration on X-rays or MRI scans but experience mild or no symptoms, while others with less severe degeneration may experience significant discomfort and functional limitations.

Diagnosis of Cervical Spondylosis

The diagnosis of cervical spondylosis involves a combination of clinical evaluation and imaging studies to accurately identify the condition and assess its severity.

Medical History and Physical Examination:

During the initial evaluation, a doctor will inquire about the duration, intensity, and nature of the symptoms experienced by the patient. Questions may also cover previous neck injuries and any family history of similar conditions.

The physical examination includes assessing the neck’s mobility, identifying any areas of tenderness, and conducting neurological tests to check for reflexes, muscle strength, and sensory deficits.

Imaging Studies:

Imaging tests play an important role in diagnosing cervical spondylosis and ruling out other potential causes of neck pain and related symptoms. The most commonly used imaging studies include X-rays, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Computed Tomography (CT) Scans.

In some cases, additional tests such as electromyography (EMG) may be recommended if nerve damage is suspected.

Differential Diagnosis:

It’s important to distinguish cervical spondylosis from other conditions that can cause neck pain and similar symptoms, such as fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, or infections. A thorough diagnostic process ensures that the treatment plan is appropriately tailored to the individual’s specific condition.


Cervical spondylosis presents with symptoms ranging from mild neck discomfort to acute neurological issues, potentially affecting daily activities and overall well-being. Prompt recognition of these signs and accurate diagnosis are important in charting a path toward effective treatment.

For those noticing any of these symptoms, seeking professional advice is crucial. A detailed assessment and a customised management plan can significantly enhance outcomes.

If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms that may be related to cervical spondylosis, we encourage you to contact our clinic to schedule an appointment with our specialist. Our MOH-accredited sports medicine specialist is dedicated to providing quality care and support to help you manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life.