Cervical spondylosis is degeneration of the disks and
vertebrae in the neck, putting pressure on (compressing)
the spinal cord in the neck.
Cervical spondylosis usually affects middle-aged and older people.
It is the most common cause of spinal cord dysfunction among
people older than 55.
As people age, osteoarthritis becomes more common.
It causes vertebrae in the neck to degenerate. When bone
in the vertebrae attempts to repair itself, it overgrows,
producing abnormal outgrowths of bone (spurs) and narrowing
the spinal canal in the neck. (The spinal canal is the passageway
that runs through the center of the spine and contains the spinal cord.)
The disks between vertebrae also degenerate, decreasing the
cushioning that otherwise protects the spinal cord. As a result,
the spinal cord may be compressed, causing dysfunction.
Some people are born with a narrow spinal canal. In them,
compression due to spondylosis may be more severe.
Often, the spinal nerve roots (the part of spinal nerves located
next to the cord (see Biology of the Nervous System:
How the Spine Is Organized) are also compressed.
Occasionally in people with osteoarthritis, flexing the neck
causes one vertebra to slip over the vertebra next to it
(a disorder called spondylolisthesis). As a result, the
spinal canal is suddenly narrowed, and each time the
neck moves, the spinal cord is slightly but repeatedly injured.
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