The human body is like a very finely tuned machine, where all body parts are finely interconnected. Any malfunction, either due to external or internal factors, and the body suffers. This is what we call the 'diseased' or 'afflicted' state.
One of the things about machinery is that constant use will result in wear and tear of the parts of the machine. This is true about the human body to. As we grow older, through constant use over the years, different parts of the body show physical signs of wear and tear.
Most of this wear and tear manifests itself in the form of aches and pains. One such manifestation is cervical spondylitis.

What is Cervical Spondylitis?

The word 'spondylitis' originates from the Greek word 'Spondylo', meaning vertebra. Spondylitis occurs as a result of changes in the joints of the vertebral column, mostly due to wear of the discs in between the different vertebrae, which in turn results in changes in the bones and tissues of the vertebral column.
The cervix or the cervical column, near the neck, is the beginning of the spinal cord. Degeneration and wear and tear of the discs in the cervical spine causes cervical spondylitis. Cervical spondylitis is a degenerative disease that progresses with advancement in age.
Earlier on, cervical spondylitis was seen usually in people around 50 to 55 years of age. However, of late, there have been numerous cases where the patient age has been lower than 55 years, in some instances even 35 years.
Nowadays a large number of young executives are seen to be having this condition.

Risk of cervical spondylitis increases with age

As a person grows older, the chances of having cervical spondylitis increases. It goes up to 100% for a 70 year old man, and 96% in the case of a 70-year old woman.

What Actually Happens

Usually in older people, the discs between the vertebrae (intervertebral discs) get dehydrated. As a result, they lose their elasticity and become more compressible. Mineral deposits, usually calcium, start accumulating at these discs, thereby causing stiffness.
The next question is - what causes the loss of elasticity and the resultant compression? While there has been no definite reason found for cervical spondylitis, there are many factors that can influence the occurrence. These factors individually or in combinations can cause cervical spondylitis to occur.

Causes of Cervical Spondylitis

Cervical spondylitis, indeed spondylitis itself, is known to be genetically influenced. Research has shown that variations of the HLA-B gene, part of a family of genes called Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA), influences the occurrence of spondylitis.
It is therefore very possible for a person with a family history of cervical spondylitis to have it himself, without the influence of any of the other factors. However, this possibility exists in only a few cases, as the number of people with spondylitis as a hereditary disorder has been found to be relatively low.
Another crucial factor is doing work that puts pressure on the neck region, like lifting heavy loads, gymnastics, etc. Other variations of this factor are work environments that require people to work in one position, usually bending, for long periods of time.
In short, any activity that puts undue stress on the neck for prolonged periods can cause cervical spondylitis. Some examples are watching the TV seated at an odd position that puts pressure on the neck, traveling for long distances and sleeping while seated, working the phones for long hours, etc.

Symptoms of Cervical Spondylitis

There are quite a few symptoms that indicate cervical spondylitis. These symptoms may show up distinctively, or may overlap one another. The following are the commonly seen symptoms of cervical spondylitis:
1. Pain in the neck and shoulder regions. The pain in the neck region is usually followed by stiffening, which gradually increases. The pain in the neck area can also move downwards to the shoulders and the arms. Some patients may also experience swelling.
2. Pain in the lower areas at the back of the head, called the sub-occipital region. This pain can move downwards to the base of the neck, as well as the top of the head.
3. Radicular symptoms. Patients may sometimes display loss of reflexes in certain areas due to the compression of the spinal nerves. Other radicular symptoms include numbness and pain in specific areas, usually the arms and the shoulders.
4. Cervical Spondylotic Myelopathy (CSM). Patients with CSM may experience difficulty in writing, unusual sensations, as well as weakness.
5. In rare cases, one may find loss of control over the sphincter, as well as incontinence while passing urine. Some patients may also experience urgency in passing urine.
6. A patient suffering from cervical spondylitis suffers from compression of the spinal cord, which in turn leads to a compression of the spinal nerves. This may manifest itself in the form of an unstable gait.
7. Another prominent symptom is the weakening of the muscles in the upper arms, slowly progressing to the lower regions of the arms. This is preceded by pain in the upper region of the arms.

Treating Cervical Spondylitis

Once a patient exhibits symptoms of cervical spondylitis, the physician usually asks for X-rays and an MRI of the cervical spine. The existence of the cervical spondylitic condition can be clearly seen on a MRI.
Once the diagnosis of cervical spondylitis is made, the next step is to start the treatment procedure.

AYURVEDA suggests the following treatment:

· Diet management
· Intensive muscle training, yoga, pranayama & other stress releaving exercises
· Lifestyle management
· Ayurveda Panchakarma Therapies for a period of 7/14/21/28 days according to the severity of the disease which includes Abhyangam( A whole body massage with specific herbal oils, achieves deepest healing effects by naturally harmonizing Body, Mind, Soul and the Senses), Swedam(medicated steam bath), Nasyam(administration of medicated oil through the nose, cleanses accumulated Kapha toxins from the head and neck region), Elakizhi (herbal leaf bundle massage), Shiro dhara(pouring continuous stream of medicated oil, buttermilk etc on the fore head and doing a gentle & soothing head massage), Shiro vasti(A special technique of bathing the head in medicated oils using a special cap like apparatus), Pizhichil (medicated oil bath), Shastika Sali Pinda Swedam/ Navarakizhi (A highly effective rejuvenation technique using a special type of rice that is cooked, tied into boluses and dipped into an herbal decoction and warm milk, then skillfully massaged all over the body), Greeva vasthi(a treatment done on to the neck to decrease cervical spinal compression), Vasthi(medicated enema)etc.

Medication Medicines used in this treatment includes Thailams, Churnams, Asavams, Aristams, Ghrithams, Lehyams etc prepared from ayurvedic herbs like Rasna, Nirgundi, Dasamoola, Aswagandha etc based on severity, stage of the disease, age, prakruthi of the patient. Vata hara, Brumhana Oushada Ahara Vihara are also advised to these patients.

People with weak neck muscles are more prone to neck problems and in such cases, an exercise programme to strengthen the neck is a good idea. Pranayama and other neck exercises releaves the stress in the neck.


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