Exercise For Arthritis In The Neck
If youre experiencing neck pain due to arthritis, your doctor may recommend physical therapy. Physical therapy for neck arthritis entails doing specific exercises to help strengthen and stretch weak or strained muscles. Physical therapy can improve range of motion. Sessions and programs vary in length and frequency and are tailored to your condition.
The foundation of what were trying to do in physical therapy for the neck is often to help improve posture and the way people move, says Dr. Milani. Exercises in physical therapy tend to be focused on strengthening muscles of the back and neck, which puts less strain on structures of the cervical spine.
Youll do exercises during physical therapy and get instructions on ones to do at home.
Regular Physical Activity at Home
You may feel like you dont want to move when your neck hurts. But being inactive may increase stiffness, which can cause you to lose even more mobility. Aches and pains tend to respond better to continued movement than rest, says Dr. Milani. Exercise is often the foundation of treatment.
Exercises that involve stretching, strengthening, and improving range of motion can help reduce pain and keep your neck limber. You want to move gently and smoothly when doing neck exercises, not jerk your neck or make sudden movements. You may feel discomfort at first. Stop if any exercise increases your neck pain.
How Does Arthritis Feel
Arthritis usually causes stiffness pain and fatigue. The severity varies from person to person and even from day to day. In some people only a few joints are affected and the impact may be small. In other people the entire body system may be affected.
The joints of the body are the site of much of the action in arthritis. Many types of arthritis show signs of joint inflammation: swelling, stiffness, tenderness, redness or warmth. These joint symptoms may be accompanied by weight loss, fever or weakness.
When these symptoms last for more than two weeks, inflammatory arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis may be the cause. Joint inflammation may also be caused by infection which can lead to septic arthritis. Degenerative joint disease is the most common type of arthritis joint inflammation is not a prominent feature of this condition. While normal joints can support a vast amount of use, mechanical abnormalities of a joint make it susceptible to degeneration.
It is healthy for you to keep active and move your joints. If you do not move a joint regularly, the muscles around it weaken and/or become tight. The joint can stiffen or even freeze. When you do try to move the joint and muscles hurt because they have been still for so long.
Arthritis can make it hard to do the movements you rely on every day for work or taking care of your family.
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After a night of tossing and turning, many of us have been known to wake up with a pain in the neckliterally. Neck pain can be one of the worst feelings to have as you first greet the morning, as it’s a harbinger of discomfort that can follow you throughout the day.
What exactly causes neck pain after sleeping? And is there a stiff neck remedy that will make you feel better in no time? We chatted with , MD, medical director at Sports and Pain Institute of New York, to answer these questions.
Here are expert-approved strategies for avoiding a stiff neck in the first place, along with tips for sleeping with a stiff neck so you don’t aggravate it further.
Sleeping on your stomach can cause a stiff neck.
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Give Yourself Some Time
If you have neck pain, modify your activities for a few weeks to avoid putting additional strain on your neck. To relieve more severe pain, you can take an over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug or get a prescription from your doctor. The drug gabapentin may help with nerve-related neck pain.
If you dont improve on these medications, your doctor might suggest an epidural steroid injection to decrease inflammation around and inside the nerve.
Once the pain subsides, Dr. Mroz recommends seeing a physical therapist or doing range-of-motion exercises to improve mobility in your neck and prevent stiffness. If youre still having pain after six weeks, see a doctor.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Medication Treatment Goals
Pinpointing how to subdue an overactive immune system has stumped doctors for decades. Seventy-five years ago, one of the only rheumatoid arthritis treatments for patients was a weekly injection of gold into the gluteal muscle. Today, there are a plethora of treatment options.
Current treatments give most patients good or excellent relief of symptoms and let them keep functioning at or near normal levels, reports the website of the American College of Rheumatology.2
Since there is no cure for the disease, the aim of treatment is to reduce pain and halt joint breakdown. The goal is to not only control symptoms, but to prevent further damage and deformities, Dr. Chi said.
Many rheumatoid arthritis treatment drugs fall into a bucket labeled disease modifying antirheumatic drugs . While most patients receive some form of a DMARD, no single drug is a guaranteed solution as patients react to the drugs differently. Scientists designed some of the drugs to fight against certain immune cells, while other drugs reduce immune mediators or block immune cell functions. Patients may be treated with a DMARD in combination with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or low-dose corticosteroids, which reduce swelling and pain.
Common first line DMARDs include methotrexate, leflunomide, hydroxychloroquine and sulfasalazine.
If first line medications dont work, rheumatologists can pull out a list of second line medications called or biologics.
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Treatment Options For Cervical Osteoarthritis
Cervical osteoarthritis can usually be successfully managed without surgery. Common treatments include:
- Rest or activity modification. Going easy on the neck during a painful flare-up may ease pain. Also, you may need to modify some activities, such as using a different swim stroke if you enjoy swimming.
- Physical therapy. A physiatrist, physical therapist, or other medical professional can customize a neck exercise program for you. A stronger and more flexible neck has improved function, which may reduce pain.
- Over-the-counter medications. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may help relieve inflammation from osteoarthritis. A few examples include ibuprofen and naproxen . Remember to carefully read the instructions before using any medication to reduce the risk for serious complications.
Hot And Cold Treatment
Applying hot and cold compresses to the painful neck and shoulders can relieve the pain effectively, as well as provides neck cramp relief. You should start this right after you feel the pain.
- Apply an ice-cold towel on the shoulders and neck for 10 minutes. Repeat this 4 to 5 times a day.
- Then apply a hot pack to the neck and shoulders. You can purchase a hot pack gel and just microwave it before use. Repeat this 4 to 5 times a day as well.
This is one of the best treatments for stiff necks, it also helps reduce swelling and relieve pain almost instantly.
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How Do I Get Rid Of Fluid In My Neck
Treatments may include: Manual lymphatic drainage, or gentle massage- like treatment for the head and neck area. This moves fluid from damaged areas to healthy areas where the lymph system works well. Compression bandages or garments to help soften hard tissue, reduce swelling and prevent fluid from building up again.
What’s New In Arthritis Research
Progress is so fast in some areas of arthritis research today that the media often report new findings before the medical journal with the information reaches your doctor’s office. As a result, you need to know how to evaluate reports on new arthritis research.
Arthritis researchers are looking at four broad areas of research. These include causes, treatments, education and prevention.
Researchers are learning more about certain conditions. For example in osteoarthritis, researchers are looking for signs of early destruction of cartilage and ways to rebuild it. For rheumatoid arthritis and other types that involve inflammation, researchers are trying to understand the steps that lead to inflammation and how it can be slowed or stopped. An initial study suggests that fibromyalgia affects more older people than originally thought and often may be overlooked in this group. Your doctor can tell you about other new research findings. If you would like to take part in arthritis research, ask your doctor for a referral to a study in your area.
Many people help make arthritis research possible. The federal government through its National Institutes of Health is the largest supporter of arthritis research. Drug companies do the most research on new medications.
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Heat And Cold Therapy
You may have heard that thermotherapy, the use of heat in therapy, is an effective way of treating pain in the neck due to arthritis. This method has merit. How does it work? By increasing circulation through the joints, bones, and muscles within your neck. Without ample blood flow, areas in your neck will be deprived of oxygen, and this leads to dead or dying muscle tissue, weakening your neck and forcing you to rely on your bones for keeping your head up. Ultimately, this leads to more pain.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, you can also use cold therapy to constrict the blood vessels in your neck and decrease inflammation. Doctors recommend using hot and cold therapy in intervals of 30 minutes each.
What Do Doctors Do
It’s not always easy for doctors to diagnose JIA right away. JIA itself can have lots of different symptoms, and some infections, like Lyme disease, have similar symptoms to JIA. So doctors will want to rule out any other possibilities before deciding something is JIA.
If a doctor suspects a patient has JIA, he or she will ask about the person’s symptoms, find out if others in the family have had arthritis, and do a complete physical examination to look for joint swelling, eye problems, and rashes. A doctor may do blood tests and X-rays. In some cases, doctors may use a needle to take a sample of synovial fluid from a person’s joint.
Sometimes, a doctor might need to see a patient for several months to determine the particular type of JIA the person has.
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Tips For Easier Reading
When does your neck hurt the most? If its after reading, try propping your book on a pillow or use a lightweight e-reader that you can hold at eye level to avoid bending your neck down for long periods. Try doing more work at the computer instead of on your phoneall that hunching over can lead to a case of text neck. And ask your rheumatologist for a referral to an occupational therapist who can help make adjustments to your workstation or suggest other neck-saving tools.
Neck Exercises For Arthritis
Setting your neck straight
We put a lot of impact on our joints over the years. Eventually they start to show the signs of wear and tear. With age, arthritis can cause the joints in our knees, hands, wrists, and feet to become stiff and sore.
Arthritis also affects the vertebrae in our neck, which get worn down from years of supporting our head. After age 60, more than 85 percent of people have arthritis in their neck, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons .
If your neck is sore, see a doctor to find out exactly whats causing your pain. You can visit your family doctor or see a specialist like an orthopedist, rheumatologist, or osteopathic doctor. Your doctor can also advise you on therapies to help relieve the pain such as postural changes, physical therapy, yoga, or Pilates. And your doctor may recommend pain relieving medication or steroid injections.
You can also try basic exercises at home. Though you might be tempted to keep your neck still when it hurts, staying immobile will only increase the stiffness. It will also cause you to lose even more movement. Stretching and strengthening exercises will help keep your neck limber and reduce your arthritis pain.
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Surgery For Neck Arthritis
Surgery is usually a last resort for neck arthritis, says Dr. Milani. Your doctor may recommend it if you have severe pain that isnt relieved with nonsurgical treatment or if you have signs of neurologic injury. Surgery may be needed if the arthritis causes instability, or more importantly, impingement of nerves and/or the spinal cord, says Dr. Shah.
When To Call The Doctor
- Symptoms do not go away in 1 week with self-care
- You have numbness, tingling, or weakness in your arm or hand
- Your neck pain was caused by a fall, blow, or injury, if you cannot move your arm or hand, have someone call 911
- The pain gets worse when you lie down or wakes you up at night
- Your pain is so severe that you cannot get comfortable
- You lose control over urination or bowel movements
- You have trouble walking and balancing
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How Neck Arthritis Is Diagnosed
Your doctor will start by taking a history and doing a physical exam. Theyll check the range of motion in your neck and test your strength, sensation, and reflexes to find out if there is pressure on your nerves or spinal cord. Theyll ask when your symptoms started, when the pain happens, and what makes the pain better and worse.
Your doctor may order an X-ray to assess alignment and look for arthritic changes, says Dr. Shah. If there is a concern of compression of spinal nerves or the spinal cord, you may need an MRI to look at the neutral structure and discs, says Dr. Shah.
A CT scan may be ordered to look at the bone more closely, especially to see if any bony outgrowths are causing compression. However, X-rays and MRIs are the tests that are usually ordered, says Dr. Shah. A CT scan with a myelogram may be used if an MRI cant be done.
An electromyography, or EMG, may be ordered to assess for nerve compression, says Dr. Shah. An EMG tests the electrical conduction of the nerves in the arms. This test would be helpful if you have multiple nerves being compressed or compression of nerves at the neck and in the arm, he says.
Your doctor may order blood tests to see if you have any antibodies or systemic inflammation that would reveal inflammatory arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, or ankylosing spondylitis.
Can Arthritis Cause Numbness
Numbness is often a symptom of nerve involvement. For instance, numbness in the arm may be related to nerve irritation in the neck. In such a situation, turning or bending the head to the involved side may increase the symptoms. For example, a pinched nerve in the right side of the neck may cause numbness in the arm and hand when a person attempts to look back over the right shoulder. If nerve irritation becomes more severe, the arm and hand may become weak. A physical examination X-rays and an MRI of the neck and electrodiagnostic tests may be useful in establishing the diagnosis.
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What Is The Role Of Diet In Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment
Patients can also control their own gut microbiome by altering their diets. Because there is not enough hard data and because different individuals react differently to a given food, the American College of Rheumatology doesnt promote any diet, Dr. Chi said, other than a heart healthy diet, due to the damage rheumatoid arthritis can wreak on the bodys cardiovascular system. In general, Omega 3 fatty acids that are found in fatty fish like salmon are thought to have anti-inflammatory effects, and there is plenty of anecdotal evidence for turmeric, vegan diets, and eliminating fast food, processed food, dairy or gluten.
Dr. Chi stated that while she doesnt recommend any diet, she doesnt deter her patients from experimenting with diets and supplements as long as patients get the nutrients they need. I dont discourage patients from trying different kinds of diets. And people ask me about supplements all the time. As long as its from a reputable source and not potentially tainted with something, its fine to try, she said. However, it should be noted that supplements are not regulated by the FDA or any other governing body, so safety cannot be guaranteed.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Of The Cervical Spine
When you wake up to stiff joints compliments of rheumatoid arthritis , one becomes gallingly aware of each place the body bendsknuckle, knee, wrist and anklebut when the stiffness affects the atlantoaxial and atlanto-occipital joints in your upper neck, the cervical spine, the disease can turn dangerous. These joints, which pivot your head to look up, down, right and left, share neck space with the spinal cord and lie just below the brain stem. It is important to seek quick treatment to prevent swelling in this area and damage to these joints.
Rheumatoid arthritis can affect the neck joints causing stiffness and pain when moving your head up, down and/or side to side. Photo Source: 123RF.com. Understanding your rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis and treatment options can help you comprehend your doctors game plans. Gaining knowledge about what can be done to manage the disease can also dissolve feelings of depression or isolation.
Patients who fare best make peace with the fact that RA is a lifelong condition that will alternately flare up and go into remission, says Wendy Chi, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Rheumatology at Mount Sinai in New York City.
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