Arthritis in the Neck

As people get older, they find a lot of physical changes occur in the body that results in pain. Some cause chronic pain. Arthritis is one of these conditions, and neck pain is very common for those who suffer from arthritis. This is partially due to the fact the discs in the neck dry out, ligaments are not as flexible and rough spots can develop on the bones, resulting in pressure on nerves in the arms and the spinal cord itself. Injuries to the body throughout one's life can also contribute to this pain and discomfort.

What Does Arthritis in the Neck Usually Refer To?

There are two conditions that fall under the umbrella reference of arthritis. These conditions are rheumatoid arthritis and cervical spondylosis. These conditions lead to joint damage, which then results in pain and discomfort in the patient's neck.

Cervical Spondylosis

This condition is called cervical osteoarthritis or arthritis of the neck and refers to normal changes to the discs, bones and joints of the neck. These changes are the result of aging, where spinal discs break down or lose fluid. This causes them to be stiff. Middle aged and elderly people typically suffer from this condition, referred to as arthritis in the neck.

Osteophytes are spurs or abnormal growths that occur on the bones in the neck. This results in narrowing of the spinal column's interior and also where the nerves exit the spine, which is called cervical spinal stenosis.

Unfortunately, more than 85% of people over age 60 will deal with cervical spondylosis. This means many deal with pain and stiffness in the neck, although there are a fortunate few who feel no symptoms at all. These people may have the bone spurs or other manifestations of the condition but do not feel the pain that others deal with as a result.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

This condition is actually an autoimmune disorder which means the body's tissues are attacked by its own immune system. While this condition is more likely to cause pain in the fingers and wrists, it can affect other areas, including causing arthritis in the neck.

The issue that leads to rheumatoid arthritis is a painful swelling of the lining of the joints. This leads to deformity of those joints and even erosion of the bones in the area. This condition affects women more often, and can occur at any age -although it tends to inflict people after they reach the age of 40.

Arthritis in the Neck: Symptoms to Look Out For

Symptoms of Cervical Spondylosis

When you are concerned about cervical spondylosis, consider the following as signs to consult a medical professional:

  • headaches that seem to originate in the neck
  • pain in the shoulders and arms
  • a grinding noise or feeling when turning one's neck
  • an inability to turn one's head fully, which can impact daily activities like driving

Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis

The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis may include tender and swollen joints, stiffness that is present upon waking and may last for hours, bumps of tissue under the skin on your arms, fever, weight loss and fatigue.

Usually the smaller joints are first affected, especially those in hands and feet. Later on, symptoms may develop to ankles, knees, elbows, hips and shoulders.

Treatment for Arthritis in the Neck

Certain treatments are more effective for one type of arthritis, rather than the other. Below are some recommended treatments for the different arthritic conditions that cause arthritis in the neck.

For Cervical Spondylosis

  • Wearing a cervical collar or otherwise limiting movement of the neck
  • Heat therapy
  • Ice therapy
  • Exercises to improve one's posture
  • Drugs and pain medications to help relieve the pain and swelling
  • Regular appointments with the chiropractor
  • Steroid injections into the neck
  • Exercises to strengthen and stretch the neck

For Rheumatoid Arthritis

Treatment of RA is difficult because each person deals with the illness differently. However, medications to reduce inflammation and help relieve pain are common. Also, medicine to slow the damage to the joints, rest whenever possible and treatment by a chiropractor are advised. Some people benefit from the use of splints and even surgery in some extreme cases.

Exercises for Arthritis in the Neck

  • Neck Stretch: Straighten the body and, while keeping it straight, push the neck forward so the throat area is stretched. Tense the neck muscles and hold briefly before returning to center. Then push the head back, raising the chin. Return to center. Repeat this five times.
  • Neck Turn: While keeping the chin at the same height, turn the head to one side. Do this gently, only slightly causing muscles to tense. Hold for five seconds, then return to center. Repeat with other side. Do this exercise five times for each side.
  • Neck Drop and Raise: While sitting in a chair or standing very straight, drop the head forward. Touch chin to chest and hold for 10 seconds. Return to natural position. Tilt head back slightly and hold for 10 seconds. Make sure to repeat forward five times and also to the back five times.
  • Head Tilt: Sit in a chair. Push left shoulder down while tilting head toward right shoulder. Hold for five seconds. Relax. Repeat in opposite direction, making sure to press down with right shoulder while tilting the head toward the left shoulder. Complete five times with each shoulder.
  • Shoulder Rolls: While seated, roll both shoulders forward slowly at the same time. Relax. Roll shoulders slowly backward. Repeat five times in each direction.
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