When arthritis occurs in the spine, the condition is called spondylosis. People with C4-C5 spondylosis have developed arthritis between the third and fourth cervical vertebrae of their necks. Cervical spondylosis can cause substantial pain and progress to point where patients become unable to raise their heads or control their limbs. Patients with less-serious cases of C4-C5 spondylosis can find relief with physical therapy and medications, but surgery to stabilize the spine may become necessary.
Age-related degeneration of the bones in the neck and of the cartilage, or disk pads, between vertebrae sets the stage for cervical spondylosis. Damage from a neck injury can hasten the breakdown of cushioning between vertebrae, and little beyond avoiding injuries can be done to slow the onset of some degree of cervical spondylosis. The Mayo Clinic says that maintaining proper posture and regularly taking breaks from activities such as typing on a computer that involve holding the head at unnatural angles can keep the joints of the neck healthy.
Recurrent or chronic neck pain and stiffness can signal the onset of cervical spondylosis. These symptoms worsen and become more frequent over time, and the pain may spread down into the shoulders and arms. Patients may also have headaches.
As cervical spondylosis progresses, bone spurs may form on the parts of the vertebrae that rub against each other. Also, the compressed or tilted C4 and C5 vertebrae can impinge the spinal cord, creating numbness and weakness in their arms and legs, as well as occasional loss of balance. Patients with very advanced cervical spondylosis may lose bladder or bowel control or become unable to walk or move their arms.
Rest and exercises to strengthen the muscles of the neck constitute the first line of treatments for cervical spondylosis. Therapeutic interventions may advance to having patients wear a neck brace or lay in traction for a time to realign the vertebrae of the neck. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs also play a role in treating cases of cervical spondylosis that do not require surgery. Severe pain may prompt prescriptions for cortisone injections, opioids and muscle relaxants.
Patients showing neurologic impairment such as lack of bowel control will have surgery to remove any bone spurs and to relieve pressure on the spinal cord. As part of the surgery, patients may have bone and cartilage removed or have bone implanted.