Advertisement
The term arthritis is used to refer to a group of medical conditions associated with inflammation of the joints. Stiffness, swelling in joints, and joint pain are the common symptoms of such conditions. Out of the various types of conditions, gout, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis are more commonly seen to affect people. Neck pain due to arthritis is mainly caused due to osteoarthritis (OA) of the neck or rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Contributing Factors and Symptoms

Stiffness and pain in the neck could be caused by OA affecting the neck or RA. The former is also referred to as cervical spondylosis, and is associated with the age-related degeneration of the bones in the neck, formation of bone spurs in neck, herniated disc in the cervical spine, or stiffness of muscles and ligaments. The affected individuals might experience the following symptoms:

Stabbing pain that generally radiates to the bottom of the skull
Pain that might also radiate to the shoulder and the arm
Muscle weakness in the neck
Headache in the back of the head
Clicking sounds in the neck
Restricted neck movement
Muscle spasms and weakness in neck, shoulders, arms, or hands

Pain in the neck can also be caused due to RA. This is an inflammatory condition which causes damage to the joints. An early diagnosis of this inflammatory condition can help in slowing down the progression of this disease. Those affected by this condition generally experience symptoms such as:

Morning stiffness
Swelling
Tenderness and redness in joints

If the neck joints located at the top of the spine are affected by this inflammatory condition, it could lead to dislocation of the joints. As a result, these dislocated joints could exert pressure on the spine and cause pain and weakness in neck, hands, legs, and arms.

Treatment

Generally, the abnormalities in the ligaments, discs, and the cervical spine can be viewed with the help of a physical examination and imaging procedures such as an X-ray or MRI scan. These procedures help in determining the extent of degeneration of the bones. The treatment might involve:

The use of a cervical collar to limit the movement of the neck.
Application of heat or ice
The use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs in case of RA
Physiotherapy for improving flexibility and the range of motion of the neck and maintaining a correct posture

A physiotherapist can guide you regarding the appropriate exercises that can be performed without causing stress on the neck joints. Following a proper diet will also help in alleviating the symptoms. One's diet must exclude foods that cause inflammation. Alternative healing therapies such as massage, aromatherapy, acupressure and acupuncture, etc., might also help to some extent.

Arthritis cannot be cured, but it can be managed well with the help of medicines, exercises, and a healthy diet. However, in rare cases, surgery might be recommended. For instance, painful bone spurs caused due to OA might need to be removed surgically. Since the dislocated joints might sometimes exert pressure on the spinal cord, surgery might be required to avoid spinal cord complications.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.