There’s a variety of different things that can cause cervical osteoarthritis. Cervical osteoarthritis is also called cervical spondylosis. It is a condition involving changes to the disc, bones and joints of the neck. Such changes are caused by the normal wear and tear of aging. As we age, the discs of the cervical spine wear and break down, losing fluid, and becoming more solid. Cervical osteoarthritis often occurs in men and women 50 or older.
One or more nerve roots can be compressed by the degeneration of cervical spine discs. The compressed nerves can cause a number of different symptoms, such as arm pain, weakness, tingling and numbness. It also causes neck pain that can range in minor to extreme.
Aging is the major risk factor or cause of neck arthritis. Even so, neck injuries can contribute to the arthritis years down the road. The wear and tear that is caused by aging can result in a number of different changes. Dehydrated discs results in your disc shrinking. This causes bone-on-bone contact between vertebrate. Disk dehydration begins around age 40. Bone spurs are another related condition. Bone spurs refer to the extra bone that is produced by degeneration. Herniated disc are caused by aged cracks in the disc that result in bulges or ruptured disc pressing on your nerves or spinal chord.
Symptoms of Cervical Arthritis
Early stages of neck arthritis are usually unnoticed. Very few ever feel symptoms from early neck arthritis. When symptoms do occur, the neck is the primary center of pain. Cervical osteoarthritis can portray a number of different symptoms.
- Severe pain at the end of the day
- Pain that radiates between your shoulder blades into the shoulders
- Pain moves from the neck down the arm and shoulder
- Feel grinding when moving your neck
- More then normal headaches
- Numbness in your arms, fingers or hands
- Weakness in your arms, shoulders, hands
Diagnosing Cervical Spondylosis
When diagnosing cervical spondylosis, there’s a number of factors that need tested and examined. Both physical and diagnostics can help determine if arthritis is the source of the symptoms you’re experiencing. A physical exam is very likely to be performed. Your doctor may ask what level of pain or discomfort you are in. He or she will examine your neck, see what type of range of motion you have, while also checking for weakness in the arms. A complete medical history can also be used to aide your doctor. Your doctor will likely run test on your neck, such as X-rays, CT scans or perhaps a MRI if needed.
Risk Factors for Neck Osteoarthritis
There are a number of risk factors for neck osteoarthritis. The main risk factor is aging. Genetic risk factors and neck injuries are also important risk factors to note. If you have a job that requires a lot of movement, this can become a risk for you. Due to the location, all these risk are valid, serious and should be kept in mind.
Possible Treatments Of Cervical Osteoarthritis
A number of medical, physical and surgical treatments are available for neck arthritis depending on the level of pain, discomfort and type of degeneration present.
1. Medications both over the counter (for milder symptoms) and prescribed (for more chronic pain) are available.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS),
- Non-narcotic analgesics,
- Corticosteroid injections,
- Muscle relaxants, including cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril, Amrix) and methocarbamol (Robaxin) may be required for more severe pain management.
- Narcotic analgesics, such as hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab) or oxycodone (Percoset, Roxicet) are also prescribed for more severe pain.
- Anti-seizure drugs including some types of epilepsy drugs such as gabapentin (Neurontin, Gralise) and pregabalin (Lyrica) will relieve the pain caused by damaged nerves.
2. Therapy both with a therapist and at home can strengthen muscles relieving neck pain and providing increased mobility.
- A therapist can teach a patient exercises designed to strengthen and stretch neck and shoulder muscles.
- Traction is of benefit to some patients suffering from pinched nerves as this therapy can provide more room between disks relieving the pinched nerve.
- Regular massage is helpful for pain management and regaining mobility.
- Regular exercise at home can maintain muscle strength relieving pain.
- Heating or icing the neck can relieve stiff muscles and reduce pain and inflammation.
- A soft neck brace will allow neck muscles to rest and provide some relief but it should only be a short-term solution as it can weaken muscles over time.
3. Surgery is a last resort option when none of the above options provide adequate pain and mobility relief. It is used in order to provide more room for the spinal chord and nerve roots thus relieving pinching and compression of the nerves. Surgery always comes with inherent risks so it is used as a last resort option.
- A herniated disk or bone spurs may be removed.
- Part of a vetebra may be removed.
Age invariably brings with it degeneration of bodily systems including bone. Arthritis is a common ailment of the elderly and in rarer cases with the very young. Maintaining an active lifestyle, focusing on proper posture and eating a healthy well-balanced diet is key to reducing and slowing the ravages of the aging process. It is inevitable that our bodies will wear with age but how fast and to what degree can be controlled to some degree by maintaining a healthy lifestyle.