Cervical spondylosis

This information may be useful for those who have been diagnosed with cervical spondylosis. People who are experiencing new or ongoing symptoms should visit their healthcare professional for assessment, diagnosis or treatment.

Read more about managing a neck problem

What is cervical spondylosis?

Cervical spondylosis is the medical term for neck pain caused by age-related changes to bones and tissues.

Apart from age, there are several other risk factors that may increase the likelihood of developing cervical spondylosis. These include:

  • lack of exercise or movement
  • sitting in a sedentary position for long periods
  • obesity
  • previous neck injuries or surgery
  • severe arthritis

Symptoms of cervical spondylosis

Many people experience no noticeable symptoms. It’s common to experience some or all of these symptoms including:

  • neck pain
  • stiffness
  • headaches which usually start at the back of the head, just above the neck, and travel over the top to the forehead.

Pain usually comes and goes, with flare-ups followed by symptom-free periods.

Rarely, it can irritate a nerve in the neck, which can cause symptoms such as pain and or altered sensation in your arm for example pins and needles or numbness. If any of these occur, it’s a good idea to talk to a health care professional.

Diagnosing cervical spondylosis

In order for cervical spondylosis to be diagnosed you will need an assessment from a healthcare professional.

They’ll initially ask you questions about your neck issue and then carry out a physical examination. This may include checking your range of movement and strength.

You may sometimes need to have a further examination to rule out other possible health conditions.

Treatment of cervical spondylosis

Cervical spondylosis is a long term condition, and symptoms are often variable from day to day.  Many patients have found that managing their symptoms can help improve their quality of life. 

There are some things you can do to help manage this condition yourself.

Read more about exercises for cervical spondylosis


Cervical spondylosis can sometimes mean you need to take some time off work to help recovery. How long you’re off will depend on the nature of your condition and your role at work.

You do not need to be symptom free before you consider returning to work. Continuing to go to work, or returning to work as soon as is possible for you, will help your recovery. Gradually getting back to your normal daily activities can help to build up your strength and stamina levels.

Help and support

Following this advice, you should see gradual improvements over time.

You should see the biggest change in your symptoms within the first couple of weeks. Most problems should have improved within 6 weeks.

If your neck pain hasn’t improved within 6 weeks of following this advice, or if your symptoms get worse at any time, it’s a good idea to talk to a healthcare professional about your symptoms.

Read about how to access MSK services

When dealing with any health condition it’s important to also look after your mental wellbeing as this can impact your recovery.

Last updated:
16 June 2023