Cervical Osteoarthritis / Cervical Spondylosis / Neck Arthritis
What is Cervical Oseoarthritis?
Cervical osteoarthritis (OA) is a term often used synonymously with cervical spondylosis, and refers to the degeneration that takes place within the first seven vertebrae (bones) of your spine, called the cervical vertebrae or cervical spine.
Cervical spondylosis is the most common spine dysfunction in people over 65.
The cervical spine supports your head and neck, and protects the cervical spinal cord and nerve endings within.
The boney knobs that you can feel running down your spine are part of the vertebrae and are called the “spinous process.”
On either side of each spinous process, there is a facet joint that connects each vertebra together to form the spine.
These facet joints are lined with a smooth, rubbery layer of cartilage, separating the vertebra and allowing their movements to be smooth and painless.
Cervical OA is a type of spinal osteoarthritis that occurs when that layer of cartilage breaks down and wears away, causing bone to grind on bone.
In more severe cases, painful bone spurs called osteophytes can form in the place of cartilage.
What Causes Cervical Osteoarthritis?
There is no one cause of cervical OA, but factors that increase your likelihood of developing it include:
- Increasing age, especially over 65
- Gender – women are more likely to get osteoarthritis
- Long-term, repetitive strain on your neck, whether occupational or recreational
- Being overweight
- Family history of osteoarthritis
- Previous neck injuries
- Genetic defects in the cartilage or neck
- Poor posture
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Cervical Osteoarthritis?
The most common symptom of cervical OA is neck, shoulder and upper back pain. Most often, the pain develops slowly over time, but it can appear suddenly.
Other signs and symptoms of cervical OA include:
- Stiffness or tenderness in the neck, shoulders and upper back, especially first thing in the morning or after periods of inactivity
- Pain during or after strenuous activity
- Decreased range of motion (difficulty turning or bending your neck)
- A crunching, clicking, or snapping sound (known as crepitus) when turning your neck
- A hunched or slouched appearance
- In severe cases of cervical OA, bone spurs can compress the nerves in the spine and put pressure on the spinal cord (cervical myelopathy) causing:
- Muscle spasms
- Weak grip
- Tingling, numbness or weakness in the shoulders, arms, hands, legs or feet
- Lack of coordination and difficulty walking (dizziness, poor balance)
Concerned about symptoms of cervical osteoarthritis? Find a physiotherapist near you and book an assessment today.
How is Cervical Osteoarthritis Treated?
Treatments for cervical OA typically include medications, physiotherapy, and surgery. Surgery is rare and should only be considered as a last resort, and many drugs carry serious side effects.
Treatments for cervical osteoarthritis include:
- Glucosamine supplement, which is found naturally in the fluid around the joints and is critical to building cartilage
- Medications, including:
- Over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen
- Topical medications such as creams, sprays, gels or patches
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), though these drugs can have serious side effects including heart attack, stroke, stomach irritation and bleeding, and kidney damage
- Steroid injections, though these cannot be continued for a long period of time
- Surgery – most cases of cervical OA can be treated without surgery, but if surgery is necessary after other less invasive treatments have not helped, physiotherapy is an important part of rehabilitation
Physiotherapy for Cervical Osteoarthritis
Physiotherapy is a drug-free and non-surgical treatment that has been proven to reduce arthritis pain.
The goal of physiotherapy for cervical osteoarthritis is to prevent the progression of the disease, reduce pain, regain strength, and increase joint mobility, function, and quality of life.
Depending on your individual needs, physiotherapy for cervical osteoarthritis can include:
- Stability, stretching, strengthening, and range of motion exercises
- Activity modification and functional retraining
- Orthotics to add support and absorb the shock from your regular activities
- Patient education so you feel in control of your condition including relaxation and coping strategies
- Postural education
- Cross-disciplinary pain-relieving therapies such as:
Can Cervical Osteoarthritis Go Away on Its Own?
Unfortunately, no. There is no cure for cervical osteoarthritis, but with proper treatment, the disease can be managed effectively and progression stopped or delayed.
If you have cervical osteoarthritis, there are things you can do to make daily living easier, including:
- Minimizing activities that put stress on your neck
- Using a properly supportive pillow and mattress
- Wearing an assistive device such as a neck brace
- Applying heat and cold therapy
Can You Prevent Cervical Osteoarthritis?
There are many things you can do to prevent or reduce the chance of developing cervical OA, including:
- Exercising regularly, including stretching exercises such as yoga or tai chi (at least 30 minutes every day)
- Eating a non-inflammatory diet (avoiding processed and refined foods and sugar)
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Practicing good posture
Book a Physiotherapist Consult for Cervical Osteoarthritis Today
Concerned about symptoms of cervical osteoarthritis? Book an assessment with a physiotherapist today.