Ayurveda for Managing Cervical Pain
Cervical spondylosis is a degenerative health concern characterized by excruciating pain, stiffness, numbness, and restricted movement of the neck. It typically develops due to wear and tear on the spine over time and is more common in old age.
Some common symptoms of cervical spondylosis include neck pain, stiffness, and a reduced range of motion in the neck. Other symptoms may include headaches, weakness or numbness in the arms or hands, and a tingling sensation in the fingers. In severe cases, cervical spondylosis can lead to spinal cord compression, which can cause more serious symptoms like difficulty with balance, coordination, and bladder or bowel control.
Aging is one of the biggest reasons for cervical spondylosis. Other factors include excessive strain on the neck during a workout, long work hours, lack of exercise, sleeping in the wrong position (usually on your stomach), and underlying health conditions that inhibit calcium absorption in your body.
Why does it happen?
The intervertebral disc acts as a soft cushion between the vertebrae of the spine. It deteriorates with age, making Cervical Spondylosis a progressive condition and relatively common among people aged 60 and above. Due to aging, the discs in the cervical spine begin to lose moisture and elasticity, which causes them to shrink and become less flexible. This can lead to the development of osteophytes or bone spurs, which are bony growths that can form on the vertebrae, compressing the nerves and contributing to the degeneration of the cervical spine.
While ageing is a major cause of cervical spondylosis, it’s not the only factor at play. Let’s look at various other causes of cervical spondylosis.
While aging is a significant cause of cervical spondylosis, it’s not the only factor. Let’s look at various other causes of cervical spondylosis.
Cervical Spondylosis Causes
Drying and Shrinking of Spinal Discs
Ageing is inevitable, and so are the problems that come with it. Because of ageing, the spinal discs dehydrate and shrink and therefore lose their ability to provide cushioning between spinal vertebrae. The bone-on-bone contact results in extreme pain and stiffness.
Previous neck injuries can cause damage to the cervical spine and contribute to the development of cervical spondylosis.
Repeated movements or postures that strain the neck, such as holding the head forward for prolonged periods, can contribute to the development of cervical spondylosis. Maintaining good posture can help reduce the risk of developing cervical spondylosis and alleviate symptoms in individuals who already have the condition.
There may be a genetic component to the development of cervical spondylosis, as some individuals may have a higher risk of developing the condition due to their genes. It is believed that these genetic variations may contribute to the degeneration of the cervical spine and the development of bone spurs, characteristic of cervical spondylosis.
Smoking has been linked to the development of cervical spondylosis, as it can damage the discs in the spine and contribute to the degeneration of the cervical spine. Smoking can also reduce blood flow to the spinal tissues, impairing the body’s ability to repair damage to the spine.
Being overweight can strain the cervical spine and contribute to the development of cervical spondylosis.
Also read: Ayurveda’s Comprehensive Guide on Weight Management!
Certain medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or spinal stenosis, can increase the risk of developing cervical spondylosis.
Women may be at a higher risk of developing cervical spondylosis than men.
As mentioned above, cervical spondylosis is as natural as ageing, except cervical spondylosis can be prevented with a few lifestyle adjustments, which we will discuss in the latter part of this article.
If your job involves recurrent neck movements or awkward sitting positions that strain your neck, the chances of developing cervical spondylosis increase significantly.
Symptoms and Early Signs
It is important to identify the symptoms and early signs of cervical spondylosis so you can take corrective measures in time to curb the damage. Most people mistake cervical spondylosis for neck sprain or fatigue and often refuse the treatment only to worsen their situation.
Here are a few symptoms of cervical spondylosis you should watch out for:
- Neck pain spreads to other areas, such as the shoulder and arm, followed by numbness or a tingling sensation. The pain may be dull or sharp and worsen with movement or activity.
- Cervical spondylosis might give you frequent headaches. particularly those originating in the back of the head.
- You might experience grinding in your spinal discs as you move your neck side-to-side.
- As cervical spondylosis progresses through stages, it weakens your arms and legs, making it difficult to maintain a balanced gait. This may occur when nerves in the cervical spine become compressed or damaged.
- Tingling or numbness in the arms, hands, or fingers can be an early symptom of cervical spondylosis. This may occur when nerves in the cervical spine become compressed or irritated.
Complications of Cervical Spondylosis
Cervical spondylosis can lead to various complications, particularly if left untreated or progresses over time. Some of the most common complications of cervical spondylosis include
- Herniated disc: As the discs in the cervical spine degenerate, they can become more prone to tears or ruptures, leading to a herniated disc. A herniated disc occurs when the inner material of a spinal disc protrudes through a crack in the outer portion of the disc. When a herniated disc occurs in the cervical spine, it can pressure the nerves that exit the spinal cord in that area. This can cause pain, numbness, and weakness in the neck, shoulders, arms, and hands. Other herniated disc symptoms in the cervical spine include headaches, dizziness, and difficulty with balance and coordination.
- Spinal stenosis: The spinal canal is the passageway in the spine through which the spinal cord runs. When the spinal canal narrows, it can cause compression or irritation of the spinal cord or nerves, leading to various symptoms. This can cause pain, numbness, and weakness in the neck, shoulders, arms, and hands
- Cervical myelopathy: Cervical myelopathy is a condition in which the spinal cord becomes compressed or damaged due to degenerative changes in the cervical spine. This can cause various symptoms, including pain, weakness, and difficulty with balance and coordination. Symptoms of cervical myelopathy can vary depending on the location and severity of the spinal cord compression or damage.
- Chronic pain: Cervical spondylosis can cause chronic pain, significantly impacting an individual’s quality of life.
- Disability: In severe cases, cervical spondylosis can lead to disability, particularly if it affects an individual’s ability to move or perform daily activities.
If you are experiencing symptoms of cervical spondylosis, it is important to seek prompt medical attention. Early treatment can help to manage symptoms and prevent complications from developing.
According to Ayurveda, the symptoms of cervical spondylosis can be chalked up to vitiated Vata dosha. However, there are several cervical spondylosis treatments in Ayurveda that have treated the condition naturally.
Ayurveda uses medicines and Panchakarma therapies like medicated enema or Basti that may improve the symptoms of cervical spondylosis. These procedures may run depending on how well your body responds to the treatment.
Let’s delve deeper into Ayurvedic treatment for cervical spondylosis.
Cervical Spondylosis Ayurvedic Treatments
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for Ayurvedic treatments for cervical spondylosis. Each therapy is unique to the age and condition of the individual and can be tailored according to how well their bodies respond.
In case you are seeking alternative therapies to treat cervical spondylosis, here are a few treatments that are recommended and administered by certified Ayurveda practitioners.
Abhyanga-Swedam is an Ayurvedic massage therapy followed by fomentation that usually lasts 60 to 90 minutes. A certified practitioner delivers the treatment as a combination of gentle strokes and deep kneading using medicated massage oils. Applying gentle pressure around the neck area may help with cervical spondylosis. Fomentation helps the medicated oil to reach deeper into the tissues.
Elakizhi induces applying boluses of medicinal leaves in target areas to flush out toxins from the body through sweating. The therapy is delivered by a certified practitioner using fresh herbal Leaves. The treatment is believed to pacify Vata dosha and may aid in reducing musculoskeletal pains.
Sarvangadhara is an oil-dripping therapy that practitioners administer using warm, medicated oils over sarvanga-or the whole body. The treatment is said to benefit individuals suffering from various musculoskeletal issues. The massage covers all body parts from head to toe and can promote relaxation and treat aches, fatigue, and stress.
Greeva/ Kati Vasti
Greeva/ Kati Vasti is an Ayurvedic therapy focused on back and neck pains. Greeva / Kati Vasti is a specialized oil therapy for the neck, back, and shoulder, delivered by a trained practitioner. The procedure involves puddling warm, medicated oil over the affected area, followed by a gentle massage to maximize the treatment’s benefits.
Navara Kizhi is a massage therapy focused on joint & muscle pain and sore tissues. This Ayurvedic therapy is delivered in two steps. First, the affected area is massaged using warm, medicated oils to prepare for the second phase. After this, the whole body or affected body is massaged with a warm poultice filled with a mixture of cooked medicated navara rice, cow’s milk, and various herbal decoctions.
Although Pizhichil is a full-body Ayurvedic massage, it can be focused on specific areas for pain relief. It is a special form of the Kerala Panchakarma technique. Special linen cloth is dipped in warm, medicated oil and is squeezed all over the body and the head, followed by a gentle massage delivered to the recipient in multiple positions. It takes two to four practitioners to provide this massage effectively, and it lasts an hour and a half.
Ayurvedic Medicines for Cervical Spondylosis
Kerala Ayurveda Kottamchukkadi Thailam is not only the best choice for those suffering from tennis elbow, but also helps reduce stiffness, swelling, and inflammation in cervical spondylosis. It penetrates deep and helps in relieving stiffness of affected joints, and improves flexibility.
Yogaraja Guggulu helps reduce joint pain and stiffness and can also be used as an Ayurvedic medicine for cervical spondylosis. These tablets may help pacify Vata and Kapha doshas while supporting healthy joints.
Kerala Ayurveda Mahanarayana Thailam is a relaxing massage oil that soothes muscles post-workout or after a long yoga session. But it also penetrates deep into the skin and nourishes the exhausted muscles.
Cervigest Capsule is a proprietary formulation inspired by a combination of ancient Ayurvedic oils – Kubja Prasarini thailam & Kethakimuladi thailam, indicated traditionally for helping to provide relief from swelling and pain in the neck and shoulder.
Home Remedies for Managing Cervical Spondylosis
While we don’t intend to play up these home remedies and lifestyle habits as a sure-shot cure, using them once in a while can support your primary treatments for Cervical Spondylosis. However, there’s always a particular risk of medicinal interaction. It’s advisable to consult your doctor when opting for cervical spondylosis home remedies.
Garlic possesses anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, and including this in your meals may help reduce inflammation, swelling, and pain.
Sesame seeds are fortified with vitamins K and D, calcium, manganese, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, and other minerals that are good for musculoskeletal health and may help manage pain. You can apply warm sesame oil to soothe the pain.
Taking one teaspoon of castor oil with lukewarm water at night can help cleanse ama (toxins) and balance Vata. Do this once or twice a week.
Add one teaspoon turmeric powder to milk and heat the mix for five minutes at low flame. Let it cool, and add a little honey to improve the taste. Have it at night, before food.
Drinking ginger tea twice a day can help improve your symptoms. Boil 4-5 thinly sliced ginger strips in 2 cups of water at medium flame for 10 minutes. Strain the water and add honey to improve the taste.
Simple exercises like head rotation and side-to-side neck movements can prevent the neck pain from worsening. Do this exercise for at least 10 minutes twice daily.
A warm water bath with Epsom salt will help the muscles to relax. It helps reduce inflammation and improves blood flow.
Lifestyle changes to manage Spondylosis
- Practice good posture: Maintaining proper posture can help alleviate the pressure on the cervical spine. Avoid slouching, and keep your neck and back straight when sitting or standing.
- Take frequent breaks: If you work at a desk or spend a lot of time sitting, take frequent breaks to stretch your neck and shoulders and change your position.
- Exercise regularly: Gentle exercises, such as neck stretches, can help improve flexibility, strengthen the muscles supporting the neck, and improve blood flow to the affected area. Activities such as walking, cycling, or swimming can be beneficial.
- Apply heat or cold therapy: Applying heat or cold therapy to the affected area can help alleviate pain and stiffness. Use a hot water bottle, heating pad for warmth, or cold pack for cold therapy.
- Practice relaxation techniques: Stress can exacerbate the symptoms of cervical spondylosis. Try relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga to help reduce stress and tension.
- Avoid activities that exacerbate symptoms: Certain activities, such as lifting heavy objects or participating in contact sports, can exacerbate the symptoms of cervical spondylosis. Avoid these activities or modify them to reduce strain on the neck.
- Use supportive pillows: A supportive pillow can help keep the neck comfortable while sleeping, alleviating pressure on the cervical spine.
- Maintain a healthy weight: Excess weight can put extra pressure on the cervical spine. Maintaining a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise can help reduce this pressure.
- Eat a healthy diet: A balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help maintain a healthy weight and reduce inflammation.
- Manage stress: Stress can exacerbate the symptoms of cervical spondylosis. Try stress-reducing activities such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises.
- Quit smoking: Smoking can impair blood flow and reduce the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the cervical spine, increasing the risk of further damage.
What not to do?
- You must avoid consuming sour and other acidic foods when suffering from cervical spondylosis or a musculoskeletal condition. For instance, amla, red meat, and citrus fruits. Also, eating white potatoes may shift Vata dosha away from its optimum levels. This may further aggravate the symptoms of cervical spondylosis.
- High-protein foods can interfere with how your body absorbs calcium. Low calcium absorption is one of the driving factors behind cervical spondylosis. It is also recommended to avoid salt and phosphorus, which is present in high quantities in carbonated drinks. Also, overconsumption of caffeine and alcohol can impede your body’s ability to absorb calcium.
- Avoid cold baths and strenuous exercises that involve movements of the neck muscles.
- Sleeping on your belly can strain your neck. Plus, avoid slouching while sitting at your desk for long hours. It is better to sleep on the back or side.
- Lifting heavy objects can strain the neck and exacerbate the symptoms of cervical spondylosis. It is important to avoid heavy lifting or to use proper lifting techniques.
- Repetitive motions, such as typing or using a computer mouse, can strain the neck muscles and exacerbate symptoms.
- High-impact activities, such as contact sports or jumping, can strain the cervical spine excessively and increase the risk of further damage.
- Carrying heavy bags, such as a heavy purse or backpack, can cause strain on the neck and exacerbate symptoms.