Cervical Arthritis Basics

Cervical arthritis is a disease marked by the wear and tear of the cartilages in the upper spine region. Also known as Cervical Spondylosis, this disease causes the neck to swell and pain. The discomforting experience is gradually felt in the shoulders and arms as well. Discover the options available to manage neck pain in the article below.

Cervical arthritis is an osteoarthritis condition that affects the upper spine and causes severe pain to the neck area. Over time, the pain and discomfort travel down to the arms as well. Cervical arthritis, in medical terms, is also known as Cervical Spondylosis.

Cervical spine arthritis predominantly affects the neck vertebra which is also known as the cervical vertebrae. The degenerating cervical vertebra leads to the subsequent breakdown of the cartilages that are located between the flexible disks. These cartilages serve as shock absorbers to the spine.

The overall disintegration of the cartilages reduces the space in the vertebra which is referred to as the “foramen”. The narrowing space causes the nerves to compress starting from the neck which gradually spreads down to the arms. This condition is marked by inflammation and pain at the neck.

Causes of Cervical Arthritis

The cervical arthritis disease is caused due to the following reasons or conditions:

  • An injury or repeated trauma suffered by the neck
  • Normal aging process
  • Poor posture

Symptoms of Cervical Arthritis

The symptoms of cervical arthritis can sometimes be observed between 30 to 50 years which is a result of trauma. Most people beyond 50 years are prone to cervical arthritis, though the symptoms are not visible in all cases. Only a minor injury can make the symptoms more identifiable.

Listed below are some of the common symptoms of cervical arthritis suffered by people:

  • Severe pain in the neck especially when moved
  • Weakening muscles resulting in numb hands, fingers and arms
  • Limited movement of the neck
  • Discomfort felt with the slightest touch to the neck
  • Headache
  • Loss of balance
  • Irritable bowel and bladder syndrome

Some experts are of the opinion that other types of arthritis can cause cervical arthritis. For example, rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis have been expected to cause cervical arthritis. In such cases, due to the similarities in symptoms between the diseases, diagnosis becomes more difficult and complicated.

Diagnosis for Cervical Arthritis

The diagnosis for cervical arthritis can incorporate any of the following procedures by your doctor:

  • X-rays to check the condition of the cervical bones.
  • Myelogram with computer tomography to check the details of the bone structure and the spine.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging to detect the bone complexities.

A severe cervical arthritis condition is referred to a neurosurgeon or an orthopedic surgeon for further examination and treatment.

Treatment for Cervical Arthritis

All treatments for cervical arthritis focus on reducing neck inflammation and pain. The solutions also help in preventing any permanent damage to the spine or the nerve roots. The most common treatment options available for reducing the symptoms of cervical arthritis are listed here below:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce the inflammation and pain
  • Neck traction
  • Complete rest
  • Chiropractic manipulations
  • Cortisone injection directly injected to the affected part of the neck
  • Extreme cases require surgical methods to remove bone spurs and disc tissues

Other Treatment Options for Cervical Arthritis

There are other measures that can help you get rid of the swelling and pain experienced at the neck or arms. The remedies are listed here below:

  • Massage the muscles of the affected areas of the neck and arms, hands or fingers
  • Use cold compressors to reduce the swelling and pain
  • Avoid activities or weights that can cause strain or pressure to your spine and neck
  • Ultrasound or whirlpool (hydrotherapy or warm water) treatments
  • Gentle neck exercises recommended by your physical therapist
  • Altering your general posture to ease the neck pain
  • Using the right pillows to rest on
  • Altering your occupational habits to reduce spine stress

When to consult a doctor?

Studies show that about 5-10% of people suffering from the typical symptoms of cervical arthritis develop myelopathy. This condition is characterized by weakness, chronic neck pain, inability to feel and involuntary tendencies to pass urine. The ultimate solution can be surgery in this case.

Consult a doctor if you suffer from chronic neck pain followed by aching arms and numb fingers or hands. The doctor will examine your pain to confirm cervical arthritis.

Researches reveal that osteoarthritis is chronic but the symptoms rarely increase. Surgical methods for treating the osteoarthritic condition are therefore rare. A sudden symptom should however be revealed to a doctor in order to avoid further complications and severity.