Neck Osteoarthritis

What is it? Arthritis is defined as the presence of swelling, the presence of effusion (The escape of fluid into another part), or the presence of 2 or more of the following signs: limited range of motion(ROM), tenderness, pain on motion, or joint warmth.

Degenerative changes are common in neck or cervical spine. In some degree they are found almost universally in persons over 50yrs of age.

Statistics: Osteoarthritis of the neck is one of the most common forms of neck pain for people over the age of 50.

While a past neck injury can lead to neck osteoarthritis years later, aging is the major risk factor or cause of neck osteoarthritis. Seventy percent of women and 85% of men have x-ray evidence of neck osteoarthritis by age 60.

Whether neck pain is acute or chronic, statistics show that approximately 80% of adults are affected by some kind of neck pain condition.

Important Facts: The primary degenerative changes are initiated by injury. In other cases the condition is simply a manifestation of normal wear and tear.

In the upper limb there may be a vague, ill-defined and ill localized referred pain spreading over the shoulder region or there may be more serious symptoms from interference with one or more of the cervical nerves.

Treatment Duration: Treatments for cervical osteoarthritis are usually nonsurgical and is usually treated conservatively.

While cervical osteoarthritis tends to be chronic, the symptoms are rarely progressive and rarely require surgery. For patients with severe symptoms that are impeding their ability to function, surgery may be an option and a cervical laminectomy and/or cervical spinal fusion may be considered.

Do’s/Don’ts: Balance activity with rest. Ensure that your neck is supported at work, in the car and during your leisure time with a good pillow or chair. Check the height of your desk and chair at work and at home, and make sure that a computer screen is at eye level.

Avoid slouching in your standing position. Do not bend your neck forward or keep it in the same position for hours at a time.

Common Myths: Structural problems causing pain is a convenient and easy diagnosis to make because pictures of spinal degeneration can be pointed to on an x-ray or MRI image and named as the cause for pain. However, research has proven that structural problems are NOT the cause of most neck pain. Fortunately, there is a lot of research now showing that structural problems are usually not the cause of most neck pain.