‘Doctor, I have cervical’! This is a common statement that every health professional hears from their clients. Is that really a problem or a disease or a disorder? Relax! The answer is no. Cervical is the name of bones of the neck. Seven in number, they bear the weight of the neck, help in moving neck upwards, downwards, rotate to either side and even flex either side (like talking on phones when both hands are full).
A patient in pain or discomfort will not try to crack a joke, when what does that statement means then??
Cervical Spondylosis (CS) is a common condition that can result in pain in neck, shoulders and the adjoining structures. It, generally, is referred to as osteoarthritis of the neck. It is attributed to wear and tear of the bone or the surrounding cartilage or simply ageing process. But watch out as it has become one of the most common occupational hazards. People from all walks of life are vulnerable as most jobs require sustained or repetitive neck movements be it teaching, desk work, painting, legal profession and the list goes on!
Cervical Spondylosis (CS): Symptoms
Symptoms of CS may vary ranging from pain (sudden/gradual), which is usually ignored by patients to severe spasm, stiffness in neck, shoulder; may frequently be accompanied with headache. If not addressed, symptoms may aggravate with dizziness, muscle weakness, numbness felt in arms. These symptoms may become so severe that it might hinder regular participation in daily chores. Since, in India, everyone is a self proclaimed health professional and Ranchod Das Chanchad from 3 idiots rightly said “free advice hai, lena hai toh lelo” patients often try to manage the symptom himself/ herself consuming over the counter medications to alleviate pain. When those strategies fail, then finally true professional prescription is sought.
An X-ray of spine is done to view the extent of changes that have taken place and a thorough physiotherapy assessment is required to be done to gauge the structured involved. Physiotherapy intervention coupled with medicines (if need be) followed with modifications in work and sleeping style (neck cushion) is just perfect solution for CS. But if reported late, surgery to relieve the compressed structures in neck may be suggested. But why linger that long and bear pain for nothing. Physiotherapy for CS depends on symptoms. But usual intervention strategies targets to alleviate spasm, traction and simple neck exercises.
Using an appropriate pillow underneath neck also is beneficial to prevent further straining of the neck muscles. There is a variety of pillows that are commercially available in markets to choose from like c-shape pillows. But what should an ideal pillow be like?? What things are to be kept in mind while choosing a pillow for self?
A pillow should support the contours of the neck. Cervical lordotic curve is actually a secondary curve like the one in the lower back. It is formed as the child tries to gain control of the neck in the initial years. Whenever a pillow is chosen, it should be done keeping in mind that its width should support the natural lordotic curve of the neck. A sound sleep is a mandate in order to enjoy and work with full zeal. This makes it even more essential. Approx one inch width and one and a half inch width is sufficient for sleeping supine (flat on back) or side lying respectively. Not using pillow is not advisable unlike before when not much variety was available. Therefore, choose wisely.
Ergonomic modifications are a must with exercises. Simple modifications like using a reclined board kept on table for teachers spending time checking notebooks/exam papers, people engaged in desk job, students studying hard for examination. Taking frequent breaks, doing neck isometrics in between is sometimes all needed to avert surgery and stay symptom free..