The diagnosis of cervical spondylosis is enough to send shivers down the sturdiest of spines! Unfortunately, it is a common diagnosis and is misunderstood by doctors and patients alike. Most patients feel that a fate worse than that of cancer patients would befall them. They feel cancer may be cured but not ‘Cervical spondylosis’.
If certain principles are understood, then the phobia of this disease could be easily overcome. Bone is a living tissue. This fact is forgotten because the impressions of bone we have are from skeletons seen in the movies! There is constant activity in bones. New bone is being added or removed all the time. This fact can be understood if we remember that broken bones heal by laying down new bone. In fact, bone is the only tissue in the body, which heals by laying down its original tissue. Skin heals by scarring, as does all other tissue in the body. Bone reacts to physical stresses acting on it by laying down new bone in a bid to decrease the pressure (force per unit area) on it. If the pressure is decreased then bone gets absorbed and becomes thinner.
In the neck, the cervical spine surrounds large nerves that exit from various holes (foramina). Any increase in the size of the bone will lead to irritation of the nerves, as the foramina are encroached and the nerves impinged. This impingement, causes the symptoms of cervical spondylosis. The localized pain, pain down the arm, feeling of weakness in the arm, and other symptoms are explained on the basis of the nerve impingement. The treatment is simple in most cases. Orthopedic surgeons have only a few modalities for relief of pain.
- Use of painkillers.
- Heat or ice fomentation/diathermy.
The intelligent use of these, is the basis of successful pain relief. Almost all patients are relieved by the use of conservative methods. Very few need surgical intervention. Only those who have paralysis, giddiness or intractable pain are candidates for surgery. Most patients who need surgery, respond well to it. The personality of the patient also plays an important part in the development of the disease. Spondylosis is common in people who are continually anxious, white–collar workers, and who use their minds to make a living. It rarely occurs in the coolie, who has to carry large head loads, but has well developed muscles to protect the bones from impact. The chronic worrier is more likely to have spondylosis. Also due to his personality, he will suffer more than the one who worries less.
The management of stress must be taught to such patients, and it is often necessary to take the help of a psychotherapist to help the patient. In conclusion, the fear–psychosis generated by the diagnosis of ‘Cervical spondylosis’ is totally unjustified. Having a positive mental attitude goes a long way in treating the disease. So, throw away those dog collars, and walk with your head held high!