Arthritis of the neck is more common among the elderly, mainly due to the age-related degeneration of the neck bones or the cervical spine. Usually, neck arthritis is caused by two types of arthritis - cervical spondylosis or cervical osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. Cervical spondylosis is also known as degenerative joint disease of the neck.
Causes of Neck Arthritis
As mentioned already, the most common type of arthritis that can affect the neck bone is osteoarthritis or cervical spondylosis. It is basically caused by the age-related wear and tear of the cervical spine, and it occurs gradually over a period of time.
Cervical spondylosis can be characterized by several degenerative changes, such as the development of bony growths or bone spurs, bulging or herniated discs, and the buildup of calcium deposits within the discs that can compress the spinal nerve and cause neck pain.
Rheumatoid arthritis can also cause neck pain. It is an inflammatory condition that destroys the joints of the body, especially the joints of the fingers and the wrist. Sometimes, it can affect the joints of the neck as well. Apart from these, some other types of arthritis, like psoriatic arthritis, gout, pseudogout, ankylosing spondylitis, and Reiter's disease can be associated with this condition.
Symptoms of Neck Arthritis
The symptoms of this condition depend on the location of the nerve that is compressed. The most commonly observed symptoms are pain and stiffness of the neck, pain in the shoulders, and numbness or weakness in the arms and the hands. The pain caused by this condition can radiate from the neck to the arms.
Headaches, especially in the back of the head could also be a symptom of arthritis of the neck. The other symptoms of this condition are, pain and weakness in the legs, clicking sounds in the neck, and spasms of the neck muscles. If it is caused by rheumatoid arthritis, then one can experience joint swelling, fever, and increased fatigue, along with joint pain and stiffness.
How to Treat Neck Arthritis
This condition is usually diagnosed with the help of X-rays and MRI scans, along with physical examination. After detecting the specific abnormality of the neck bones or the joints, physicians can recommend appropriate medications, and exercises or physical therapy for treating this condition. Usually, the patients are advised to limit the movement of the neck by wearing a cervical collar or a neck brace.
The pain caused by this condition can be resolved with the application of ice and heat. If the pain and swelling are too severe to be managed with the application of ice and heat therapy, then physicians can recommend non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Along with medications, exercises, especially posture-improving exercises, stretching exercises, and neck strengthening exercises can help reduce the pain and stiffness of the neck, and increase its flexibility and the range of motion.
A physician or a physiotherapist can give you a better understanding about the appropriate exercises for neck arthritis. Many people can experience discomfort in sleeping due to this condition, as the pain can worsen while sleeping. Such individuals can opt for some specialized pillows after discussing the issue with their physicians.
In rare cases, surgery can be required for treating this condition. If medications and all other treatment options fail to alleviate the pain caused by bone spurs or a herniated disc, then surgery is performed to relieve the pressure on the cervical spine. If neck arthritis is caused by rheumatoid arthritis, then it can be treated with anti-rheumatic drugs that can reduce joint pain and inflammation.
Sometimes, patients can require splints, in order to support the swollen joints. If these measures fail to manage the condition, then surgery can be required. Surgery may involve joint replacement or removal of the inflamed tissues. Surgery can also be performed for reconstructing the tendons.
These are the usual treatment options for neck arthritis. To sum up, The treatment of this condition mainly depends on its severity. Therefore, get the condition medically evaluated by consulting a certified physician as soon as possible.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for professional medical advice.