As you age, the bones and cartilage that make up your backbone and neck gradually develop wear and tear. These changes may include:

  • Dehydrated disks. Disks act like cushions between the vertebrae of your spine. By the age of 40, most people's spinal disks begin drying out and shrinking, which allows more bone-on-bone contact between the vertebrae.
  • Herniated disks. Age also affects the exterior of your spinal disks. Cracks often appear, leading to bulging or herniated disks — which sometimes can press on the spinal cord and nerve roots.
  • Bone spurs. Disk degeneration often results in the spine producing extra amounts of bone, sometimes called bone spurs, in a misguided effort to shore up the spine's strength. These bone spurs can sometimes pinch the spinal cord and nerve roots.
  • Stiff ligaments. Ligaments are cords of tissue that connect bone to bone. Increasing age can make spinal ligaments stiffen and calcify, making your neck less flexible.
Jun. 12, 2012