Cervical spondylosis is a neck condition due to age-related wear and tear to the neck vertebrae. There can be soreness, distention, radiating pain or heaviness of the neck, shoulder, arm or head, and even numbness of the fingers. It is usually seen in patients over the age of forty. The cause is commonly due to degeneration of the discs and cervical vertebra which stimulates or oppresses the spinal cord or surrounding nerves in the neck region.
The tender tissues of spinal cord and blood vessels are mostly protected by the bone of the spinal column. As long as we are healthy, everything is fine, but when we get older these bones can start to degenerate and bony protrusions can threaten the soft tissues. Spondylosis means that the actual body of the vertebra starts to wear out and the disc in between becomes flatter and dryer. This can lead to compression of the nerve or closing of the blood vessels.
Symptoms of cervical spondylosis are pain and stiffness in the neck, tingling and numbness in the arms, hands, legs or feet, limited range of motion, dizziness and headache. The pain can be so severe that we can’t think clearly and it can keep us awake at night. The condition can also affect coordination, reflexes and walking.
Exercises, gentle manipulations, traction, massage and warmth applications can be helpful to this condition. Surgery is a last-case option, because of the delicacy of the surrounding tissues.
Acupuncture can be an effective treatment option for this condition also. In Chinese medicine (TCM) we say the cause of this condition is due to kidney deficiency, and qi-energy and blood stagnation. The kidney are said to control the bones and have an influence particularly on the spine. As the kidneys weaken with age, the bones get weak. In some people, the bones get weaker faster and this is a direct cause of a kidney deficiency.
Acupuncture works by stimulating qi-energy and blood circulation in the area of pain and discomfort. We do this by stimulating the meridian pathway associated with the pain, both locally and distally. Of course, it is important to also treat the root cause of this condition, the kidneys, in order to strengthen the neck and spine and prevent the condition from progressing further.
One of the reasons for the pain experienced with cervical spondylosis can be a high level of tension in the surrounding muscles. This is a defensive reaction by the body to protect the neck. But this tension can also maintain the pain. In this case, we must also release the tension gently – not too fast – and acupuncture can help here.
Acupuncture is a very helpful alternative in treating cervical spondylosis and is very effective in reducing the pain. It mobilizes the body’s own reserves and helps to stimulate the body’s natural healing processes. In addition, acupuncture can actually improve the body’s healthy functioning, so that the neck is stronger and functioning more healthily and is less prone to pain and further problems. Like many pain conditions, both chronic and acute, acupuncture is an excellent option in the treatment and management of this condition.
James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, Kelowna, BC.