As a person ages, there can be some negative impacts on their cervical spine, shoulders, neck, upper back and arms. Cervical spine changes with age. This could be manifested in pain and reduced mobility in these regions. That does not mean everyone will develop symptoms of pain.
The wear and tear of everyday usage and the pressure that is put on the spines combined with ageing could lead to degenerative spinal conditions in some people. In this article, we will talk about ageing and its concomitant effects on a person’s spine. Disorders like cervical spondylosis for instance. We will also look at how these disorders can be diagnosed and treated.
Symptoms of Degenerative Spinal Conditions
The following are the common symptoms of degenerative spinal conditions that develop with age:
- Neck pain
- Back pain
- Pain in the shoulder blades
- Pain, weakness or numbness in arms
- Difficulty in maintaining limb dexterity (this happens in rare cases)
How are Spinal Conditions Diagnosed
When a patient reports symptoms that may indicate a cervical degenerative disorder, the doctor physically examines the patient and asks them a set of questions to determine the exact symptoms and the time for which they have persisted. They then recommend a set of tests to investigate the exact source and the cause of the problem.
- A neurological test is conducted to rule out any problems with the nervous system.
- A physical examination of the shoulders is done to see if the pain symptoms are arising from the neck
- Diagnostic imaging tests are also done in order to get a better sense of the situation
Diagnostic Imaging Tests For Spinal Conditions
There are certain diagnostic imaging tests which can be used to determine the exact cause of the pain and other symptoms. Some of them are discussed below briefly.
- X Rays: X Rays can pinpoint if the intervertebral disc space is narrowed, if there are any anterior osteophytes present. It can also be used to identify spondylosis or arthritis of the joints and osteophytes from uncovertebral joints.
- CT Scans: CT scans can show changes that come about with osteoarthritis or degenerative spondylosis. This method however, is not too useful when it comes to monitoring vertebral discs.
- MRIs: Magnetic resource imaging or MRI is a crucial tool to identify cervical spondylosis. It can be used to visualize herniations in the disc and some types of osteoarthritis.
- Myelogram: This method is used when MRIs reveal unclear images. It helps doctors to differentiate between bone spurs and disc herniations.
Dr Jwalant S Mehta, honorary member of the British Association of Spinal Surgeons is an orthopedic spinal surgeon who specializes in spinal corrections in children and corrective surgeries in adults. He is currently practicing at the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital and the Birmingham Children’s Hospital in Birmingham, UK.
With an experience of more than a decade, he is not only a practitioner but actively involved in teaching and research. He has trained extensively in India and the UK and can be consulted for all major spinal conditions.