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SPONDYLOSIS… A MUST READ FOR OVER-’60s

Written by: favour chukwuezi


 


Spondylosis.


What a funny word… unfortunately, its meaning can strike fear and morbid thoughts into the minds of most who come across it. According to Mayo Clinic, cervical spondylosis is “a general term for age-related wear and tear affecting the spinal disks in your neck.” This sounds terrible: the condition affects the part of your body that helps you move, sense, and interact with the world around you; even worse, the condition is unpreventable as it occurs when you get older. This is why I want to tell you about cervical spondylosis before it gets to you. This article will help dispel your fear of this unknown, funny-sounding medical condition, by shedding light on its symptoms, environmental causes, and available treatment methods.


SYMPTOMS


Cervical spondylosis largely affects your ability to move, as the compression of the spinal cord – a vital part of the body’s central nervous system – greatly hinders its function as the centre for the processing and transmission of the brain’s motor signals. Hence, neck pain is one of the major symptoms of this condition. This pain increases with movement, although it can disappear at times.


 


Alongside neck and shoulder pain, patients can also experience arm weakness, numbness, cramping, and difficulty in walking. Furthermore, as the central nervous system which controls the whole body is affected, patients can also experience bodily stiffness and pain when they sit for a long time without moving. This is particularly relevant for those whose occupation involves long periods of sitting, such as in front of a desk doing office work. Finally, you may even experience a loss of physical balance. These symptoms are progressive, meaning that they worsen as one ages.


 


UNNATURAL CAUSES


While spondylosis is a natural occurrence, your daily habits can speed up the process, or cause the symptoms to become worse. For example, being overweight can lead to the early occurrence of this condition.


This is because weight gain in one’s abdomen, back, or neck places extra pressure on your spine, which may become compressed if it is unable to handle the extra burden. Secondly, smoking can hasten the death of the nerves that are affected by spinal wear and tear.


Smoking in itself kills a lot of active cells and nerves in the body. As spondylosis affects the spinal cord, the harm to the body’s nerves and energy-producing cells caused by smoking can greatly exaggerate the symptoms exhibited by spondylosis. Lastly, the constant lifting of heavy objects, as required in many menial labour jobs, places stress on the delicate spine. As our spines strain to help our backs support the weight of the heavy object – this could be anything such as a heavy crate of goods or a dumbbell at the gym – the spinal disks may be damaged as they rub against each other. These are some of the big causes of cervical spondylosis. However, remember that cervical spondylosis is just an umbrella term for general wear and tear of the spine, which means that any other actions or habits which may overwork such a fragile yet vital component of our bodies can lead to an exacerbation of the condition.


 


TREATMENT


 


If your lifestyle cannot be improved, as is the case for many people, then fear not, as there are many accessible ways to get treated for cervical spondylosis. Regular physiotherapy is the most effective and also the most neglected treatment for spondylosis. Physiotherapists can teach you exercises which help to stretch and relax your overstressed neck and shoulder muscles. Doing these exercises morning and evening helps in decreasing, easing, and even preventing the experience of pain. Apart from basic stretches, ultrasound therapy is often used by physiotherapists as a non-invasive method of treatment to help ease chronic pain, including lower back pain and neck pain. This method involves using generated sound waves to penetrate soft tissues, in order to provide deep heating which can help with easing pain. However, researchers have questioned the efficacy of ultrasound therapy, quoting experiments where placebo treatment was just as effective in easing pain intensity.


 


Nevertheless, this form of treatment remains popular among physiotherapists. A non-Western method of treatment is acupuncture. This respected treatment method originating in ancient China can be very effective in stimulating the central nervous system, which is the most affected by cervical spondylosis. Extremely thin needles are inserted in to specific points in the body, which then relieves pain in the relevant areas.


 


While various explanations are given for how acupuncture logically works, its effectiveness in relieving chronic pain, which cervical spondylosis generates, has been proven by countless applications throughout thousands of years. If seeing a doctor is not up your alley, then going to a massage parlour is relaxing to both the mind and body. An expert masseur applies pressure to sore muscles, thus increasing blood flow – and therefore much-needed nutrients – to the area. This also helps in the excretion of metabolic waste, which is a microbiological cause of the pain. However, sometimes these treatments may still not be able to offer a solution.


 


That is where surgery comes in. Signs you may require surgery to deal with cervical spondylosis include a persistent, intense neck pain while carrying out daily activities, regular loss of balance, urinary and bowel discomfort, and spinal cord damage from compression. Some of these symptoms can only be discerned via doing medical tests, so it is vital that over-60’s should do regular check-ups, especially if you are experiencing physical discomfort. Overall, from the information provided alone, cervical spondylosis sounds like a dangerous, undesirable condition to have – after all, the pain will never completely go away, and will only increase with age.


 


Indeed, cervical spondylosis is a condition that comes about with old age, and it is almost inevitable. 85% of people aged 60 and above have this defect, showing that spondylosis is a natural occurrence that you have to learn to live with. Knowing that most people will experience cervical spondylosis starting from a certain point in their life may not help ease your own despondency about your future health.


 


However, I have included several useful, accessible ways to combat the chronic pain that arises from this condition. Knowing more about the causes of spondylosis will also, I hope, help to change your living habits so that you can delay its onset and impact on your body. Most importantly, make use of your youth as best as you can – remember, you only live once.


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