Disk Degeneration And Bone Spurs
As the disks in the spine age, they lose height and begin to bulge. They also lose water content, begin to dry out and weaken. This problem causes settling, or collapse, of the disk spaces and loss of disk space height. Eventually, the cushioning qualities of the disks begins to decrease.
As the facet joints experience increased pressure, they also begin to degenerate and develop arthritis, similar to what may occur in the hip or knee joint. The smooth, slippery articular cartilage that covers and protects the joints wears away.
If the cartilage wears away completely, it can result in bone rubbing on bone. To make up for the lost cartilage, your body may respond by growing new bone in your facet joints to help support the vertebrae. Over time, this bone overgrowth called bone spurs may narrow the space for the nerves and spinal cord to pass through . Bone spurs may also lead to decreased range of motion in the spine.
Side view of a healthy cervical vertebra and disk. A disk that has degenerated and collapsed.
Symptoms Of Cervical Osteoarthritis
Neck pain from cervical osteoarthritis typically starts gradually and progresses over time. The neck may feel particularly stiff and achy in the morning and then feel better as the day goes on.
Some common symptoms of cervical osteoarthritis can include one or more of the following:
- Neck pain that typically feels dull but can also be sharp or burning
- Referred pain up to the head or down into the upper back
- Stiff neck or reduced range of motion
- Neck tenderness when touched
On occasion, bone spurs may impinge on a nerve root in your neck. This impingement can cause radicular pain into the arm, which can feel electric shock-like. If nerve root inflammation results in neurological deficits, such as numbness or weakness in the arm or hand, it is called cervical radiculopathy.
Read more about Cervical Osteoarthritis Symptoms
What Are The Signs Of Neck Arthritis
Pain is the most obvious symptom of a disk problem in the neck, yet the degree of damage has little to do with how much it hurts.
You can have 100 people with the same amount of degenerative changes in their cervical spine, and only a small percentage have neck pain, says Dr. Mroz. Among those who do experience neck pain, the discomfort is usually short-lived, improving on its own within six to 12 weeks.
Sometimes, cervical arthritis narrows the space where nerve roots exit the spine, pinching the nerve. You can feel this as a radiating pain down your arm, or as numbness and weakness in your arm and hand. If a collapsed disk or a bone spur pushes into the spinal cord and causes compression, it can produce more serious symptoms
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What You Can Do
If you think your headaches may be resulting from neck pain you are experiencing, the team at Spine & Joint of Frisco can evaluate you for arthritis in your cervical spine. A history, physical exam, and possibly an X-ray or MRI can oftentimes give us a diagnosis.
Treatment can include non-surgical options, such as facet joint injections, which are targeted X-rayguided injections into the arthritic joints in the cervical spine of a steroid solution to reduce inflammation. This is not unlike having a steroid injection into the knee joint.
Radiofrequency ablation of the sensitive, pain-causing nerves may also be an excellent, minimally invasive option. Dr. Badiyan may recommend medications like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents to help with your pain and reduce inflammation in your joints, as well as physical therapy, massage, or targeted application of heat.
In addition, theres a lot you can do to adjust your lifestyle and habits to reduce your arthritis symptoms and slow deterioration. Being overweight puts added strain on your joints, so taking steps to lose weight, including regular moderate exercise and healthier food choices, can make a big difference. We can guide you to the best combination of exercise and rest to support your health and reduce your arthritis symptoms.
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Osteoarthritis In The Neck
Osteoarthritis in the neck is the degeneration of joints, vertebrae, and discs in the cervical portion of the spine. With less padding between them, vertebrae may rub against each other. That can cause tiny bone fragments to break off and float in the synovial fluid .
Sometimes this process stimulates the growth of bony projections along the edges called bone spurs, or osteophytes. Since the padding is now thinner, the vertebrae become closer to each other. That leaves less room for the spine nerves that stick out from the spinal cord.
Symptoms of neck osteoarthritis range from none to pain, stiffness, and inflammation. Osteoarthritis in the neck pain tends to worsen after activity. Complications such as loss of coordination can happen if the spinal cord becomes pinched.
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What Are The Treatments For Cervical Spondylosis
In most cases, cervical spondylosis treatments are conservative. They include:
- Use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or other non-narcotic products to relieve pain from inflammation
- Chiropractic manipulation that can help to control episodes of more severe pain
- Wearing a cervical collar to limit movement and provide support
- Other forms of physical therapy, including the application of heat and cold therapy, traction, or exercise
- Injecting drugs into the joints of the spine or the area surrounding the spine, known as epidural steroid injection or cervical facet joint injection
Why Neck Inflammation Can Be Dangerous
When RA inflammation affects a joint, it can cause bone erosions and slackness in ligaments. In the neck, this can lead to instability between the first and second vertebrae as well as alignment problems when you tilt your head forward or back. If it progresses, the nerves may get impinged, which can lead to weakness and numbness in extremities, says Rajat Bhatt, M.D., a rheumatologist at Memorial Hermann Katy Hospital in Richmond, TX. Severe instability can also lead to compression of the spinal cord, which can be fatal. Fortunately, surgery to fuse the joint can eliminate the risk .
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What Causes Ra In The Neck
The causes of rheumatoid arthritis in the neck are the same as the causes of RA in any other joint. In people with RA, the immune system mistakenly attacks the joints in the same way it would normally fight viruses or bacteria. The bodys defenders attack the joints tissues, as well as the synovial membrane lining the joints which has a lubricating function. This attack causes inflammation, erodes cartilage and bone, and weakens the muscles, tendons, and ligaments. The damage and inflammation, in turn, lead to the symptoms of RA.
Ways To Manage Arthritis
There are a lot of things you can do to manage your arthritis. The day-to-day things you choose to do to manage your condition and stay healthy are self-management strategies and activities. CDCs Arthritis Program recognizes five self-management strategies for managing arthritis and its symptoms.
Practice these simplestrategies to reduce symptoms and get relief soyou can pursue the activities that are important to you. These strategies can even help you manage other chronic conditions you may have, such as diabetes, heart disease, or obesity.
Use these 5 strategies to manage your arthritis at any age.
Join a self-management education workshop, which can help you learn the skills to manage your arthritis and make good decisions about your health.
How can a self-management education workshop help me?
Learning strategies to better manage your arthritis can help you:
- Feel more in control of your health.
- Manage pain and other symptoms.
- Plan and carry out valuedactivities, like working and spending time with loved ones.
- Improve your mood.
- Communicate better with your health care provider about your care.
Learn about CDC-recognized self-management education programs that improve the quality of life of people with arthritis.
Stay as active as your health allows. Some physical activity is better than none.
Unsure about what kind of activity is safe?
The focus of arthritis treatment is to
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How Is Spinal Arthritis Treated
The treatment for spinal arthritis depends on many factors. They may include your age, level of pain, type and severity of arthritis and personal health goals. Because the joint damage caused by arthritis is irreversible, the treatment usually focuses on managing pain and preventing further damage.
Nonsurgical treatments for spinal arthritis may include:
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and corticosteroids to reduce pain and swelling
Other medications targeting specific symptoms or triggers of inflammatory arthritis
Physical therapy to improve back muscle strength and range of motion in the spine
Lifestyle changes to reduce inflammation or stress on your spine: losing weight, quitting smoking, changing your posture, etc.
Arthritis Of The Neck Treatment
Your treatment will depend on the cause of the pinched nerve. Treatment may include:
- Physical therapyA certified physical therapist will teach you exercises to reduce pain, improve flexibility and strengthen muscles in the neck.
- Medicine Over-the-counter and prescription medicine can help relieve chronic pain, reduce inflammation and help you find comfort.
- Injections Corticosteroid injections, medial branch blocks and other injections can help reduce inflammation and help relieve pain caused by arthritis in the neck.
- Acupuncture Thin needles are inserted into specific spots along the spine to trigger the release of certain chemicals into the body, helping reduce pain. Acupuncture, along with traditional treatment, like pain management or physical therapy helps with pain.
- Massage Medical massage therapy can help reduce inflammation, ease pain and provide relief from certain back conditions. Your doctor may recommend massage therapy along with other treatments.
- Anti-inflammatory Diet A diet that helps boost your bodys natural ability to fight inflammation may help reduce symptoms, when combined with other treatment plans.
Generally, surgery is not needed to treat arthritis. Your provider may recommend surgery if your arthritis is causing another cervical spine condition, like a pinched nerve.
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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.
Treatment For Neck Arthritis
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What Can I Do
Best Foods For Arthritis
There are foods that will help you ease the pain and inflammation of arthritis. Here are some of the best foods you can add to your diet to treat arthritis symptoms:
Fatty FishFatty fish like trout, mackerel, and salmon contain omega-3 fatty acids that have anti-inflammatory properties. They reduce inflammation, joint pain, and stiffness.
GarlicThe anti-inflammatory effect of garlic will help in treating the symptoms of arthritis. It also boosts your bodys immune system.
GingerGinger has components that prevent the production of substances that cause inflammation in the body.
Olive OilDue to its anti-inflammatory properties, olive oil will reduce arthritis symptoms. You can use it in your cooking or take it in capsules.
WalnutsThey have markers that help in reducing inflammation in arthritis. They have a very high omega-3 fatty acids content.
BerriesThey contain a compound known as quercetin that blocks inflammatory processes that are accompanied by arthritis.
SpinachSpinach contains antioxidants that fight inflammation. The consumption of other fruits and vegetables also leads to lower risks of inflammation.
Before seeking home remedies, make sure you get a go-ahead from your doctor especially if you are to take them in combination with medication.
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Recognizing The Signs Of Neck Arthritis
Neck arthritis develops in the same way as arthritis in other joints. The cartilage in the cervical discs that cushion your vertebrae begin deteriorating with age. Vertebrae begin grinding against each other or pressing on nerves within your spinal column.
You could have cervical spondylosis if you regularly experience:
- Grinding sensation when turning your neck
Pain is the most common symptom of neck arthritis, but stiffness can be severe. In some cases, neck stiffness can keep you from fully turning your head, which can interfere with your ability to drive safely.
Not everyone with cervical spondylosis has noticeable symptoms. If you do experience symptoms, they may be worse in the early morning and at night. Some people find that symptoms improve with rest.
Neck pain caused by cervical spondylosis is often chronic, but its rarely so severe that it stops you from carrying out your normal daily activities. Still, that doesnt mean you have to settle for a life of pain and discomfort.
What Are The Risk Factors For Cervical Spondylosis
Aging is the major factor for developing cervical osteoarthritis . In most people older than age 50, the discs between the vertebrae become less spongy and provide less of a cushion. Bones and ligaments get thicker, encroaching on the space of the spinal canal.
Another factor might be a previous injury to the neck. People in certain occupations or who perform specific activities — such as gymnasts or other athletes — may put more stress on their necks.
Poor posture might also play a role in the development of spinal changes that result in cervical spondylosis.
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What Causes Cervical Arthritis
Cervical arthritis is most often caused by a type of arthritis known as osteoarthritis, which is usually a result of the natural aging process.
Your presacral spine contains 24 bones that stack one upon the other to form your spinal column. Discs are small, round, rubbery structures that act as cushions between the vertebrae.
The cervical portion of your spine contains seven vertebrae and their accompanying discs, as well as pairs of tiny facet joints on either side of the C3-C7 vertebrae that facilitate movement of the spine.
Often referred to as wear-and-tear arthritis, osteoarthritis is related to degenerative changes in the bones and cartilage that form your cervical spine. Degenerative changes in the cervical spine may also be caused by repetitive motion or overhead work, such as painting.
What Is The Treatment For Arthritis In The Neck
Depending on the type, location, and extent of the degenerative changes, Dr. Doherty may recommend treatment that includes:
- Physical therapy to help stretch and strengthen neck and shoulder muscles
- Oral medications for swelling and inflammation
- Injection therapies designed to decrease inflammation and soothe irritated nerves
If conservative treatments fail, Dr. Doherty may recommend robot-assisted neck surgery to treat the underlying cause of your pain.
When neck pain is causing sleepless nights and otherwise disrupting your normal routine, schedule a visit at Yale Neurosurgery New London. Were here to help. Call the office in New London, Connecticut, or request an appointment online.
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