Cervical spondylosis, or arthritis of the neck, is initially treated with nonmedical interventions, such as resting the spine or applying heat or cold packs, and using over-the-counter pain-relief medications, according to WebMD. If symptoms worsen, doctors may prescribe chiropractic or traction therapy, restrictive collars or spinal injections of corticosteroids and anesthetics.
Cervical spondylosis frequently affects people over 60, causing aging neck joints and discs to deteriorate and produce bony overgrowths that put pressure on spinal nerves, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons states. Nonsurgical treatments are aimed at relieving mild or manageable pain symptoms, such as neck stiffness, muscle spasms, headaches and grinding neck movement. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as acetaminophen and naproxen, are prescribed for soreness and swelling, while muscle relaxants help control spasms. Doctors may also recommend massage therapy or weekly physical therapy sessions to help stretch and strengthen muscles and improve posture.
Wearing a soft collar for brief, prescribed periods restricts neck movement to rebuild muscle strength, notes the AAOS. For progressive or severe pain, doctors may administer steroid injections in cervical facet joints near the back of the neck or the epidural space surrounding the spinal cord. In some cases, doctors relieve chronic pain with radiofrequency ablation, which uses radio wave transmission to damage the affected nerves.
Surgery is typically reserved for severe cases of nerve compression resulting in neurological symptoms, such as limited feeling or function in limbs and fingers, according to WebMD. Surgery may involve disc removal, disc implants or bone grafts.