Neck pain? Look out for cervical arthritis

Cervical arthritis is a condition that affects the upper spine area. But, could this condition be the root cause of your neck pain?

What is it?

In common parlance, cervical arthritis is also known as cervical spondylosis. In this condition, the cervical disks or the cushions that pad the vertebrae in the neck wear away.

The joints between the bones in this area also waste away. As a result of this degeneration, the bones may develop spurs, which increase the pain and discomfiture associated with the condition.

As the condition worsens, the bones begin to press down on the nerves running through the spine. This could have severe impact on the legs, arms and movement.

Generally, cervical spondylosis starts in the neck and spreads to other areas like the arms and the legs over a period of time.

What causes cervical arthritis?

Typically, age is the biggest contributing factor. People over the age of 60 begin to show signs of spondylosis. Men are more vulnerable than women.

However, certain other factors may also increase the risk of developing the condition, including:

  • Severe arthritis
  • Spine surgery in the past
  • Neck injury in the past
  • A family history of neck pain
  • A job that involves neck or head movement

Poor posture is also an important contributing factor.

Symptoms of cervical arthritis:

The first symptom is continuous or intermittent pain in the neck. Some people also experience numbness and a curious ache in the neck.

Sometimes, the area at the back of the neck may be tender to the touch. There could be restrictions in movement too. Some patients suffer from chronic headaches.

Due to the bone pressing down on the nerves, there could be a disruption in the flow of blood to the head, which could lead to sudden blackouts.

Symptoms may become worse when patients look up for too much time or are involved in activities like reading for a long time.

Approximately 5-10% of patients suffering from this kind of arthritis may also develop myelopathy. In this condition, the tracts of the spinal cord may be compressed which leads to the loss of one’s perception of space.

Treatment of cervical arthritis:

A doctor can diagnose the condition after a number of tests like x-rays, CT Scans and EMG. Once the underlying cause has been ascertained, the doctor will suggest the appropriate treatment.

Along with medication like NSAIDs and muscle relaxants, it is important to take steps to manage the condition effectively. In some patients, physiotherapy is recommended.

Certain exercises are also useful in strengthening the neck area and arresting further degeneration. In severe cases, surgery may be recommended.

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