Neck Arthritis

by Carol Gomes


Neck arthritis is characterized by severe pain as well as stiffness in the neck joints. This health problem occurs when the joints in your neck and upper spine undergo a significant amount of wear & tear. Neck arthritis is rarely seen in younger people; it is quite common in those who are over the age of 60. There are different types of neck arthritis that a person can suffer from, the most common one being neck osteoarthritis, also known as cervical spondylitis or cervical arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis of the neck is also a fairly common problem affecting people. Neck Arthritis is a progressive and degenerative disease, for which there is no cure. However, it is important to get this condition treated as soon as possible, or else it worsens with the passage of time.

Causes: As you age, your risks of developing neck arthritis increases significantly. This is because the discs, joints and bones in your spine undergo a lot of wear and tear, resulting in degenerative changes. There are several different factors that could cause neck arthritis, some of the most common ones being:

  • Incorrect Posture: Holding your head or neck in the same position for a long period of time or repeatedly may cause stiffness and may eventually lead to arthritis.
  • Overuse: Making excessive use of certain joints around the neck could also increase the risks of developing neck arthritis. Habits like chewing gum, grinding your teeth or staring at the computer screen could lead to an overuse of the neck joints.
  • Injuries: The vertebrae in your neck and spine could get injured as a result of a fall or an accident, thereby resulting in arthritis.
  • Infections: Certain types of infectious diseases like meningitis, encephalitis and lyme's disease could cause serious side effects such as arthritis in the neck joints.

Very often neck arthritis also occurs due to bone or spinal disorders. However, it is not always possible to determine the exact causes of arthritis in individual cases.

Symptoms: The initial signs of neck arthritis in most cases are severe pain and stiffness in the area. Some of the other symptoms that may be evident as the disease progresses include:

  • Fatigue
  • Headaches and bouts of dizziness
  • Irritability
  • Muscle spasms in the neck area
  • Numbness & weakness in the arms and hands
  • Pain that starts in the neck but spreads to the arms or shoulders
  • Popping, cracking, grinding or clicking sounds in the neck
  • Sleeping difficulties
  • Swelling in the joints
  • Tenderness

It is important that you consult a doctor as soon as you notice any of the signs and symptoms mentioned above.

Treatment: The treatment of neck arthritis is mainly aimed at preventing further damage to the joints and controlling the symptoms. Depending upon the severity of the condition, the treatment options may include:

  • Medication like NSAIDS to relieve the pain and swelling
  • Heat therapy and cold therapy to reduce the joint inflammation
  • Physical therapy and other exercises to increase range and alleviate stiffness
  • Using devices like splits, cervical collars or neck braces to limit neck movements
  • Steroid injections in the neck area (in rare instances)
  • Chiropractic manipulation, to improve alignment and flexibility

In case these treatment options do not bring about the desired results, your doctor may advise you to undergo a surgery to:

  • Relieve pressure on the spinal cord from bone spurs or a herniated disc
  • Replace certain joints
  • Reconstruct tendons
  • Remove inflamed tissue

You could also seek relief from the symptoms of neck arthritis using natural remedies and self-care measures. Preventive care for neck arthritis includes:

  • Exercising: When the symptoms of the disease are not active, try to work out your neck joints, but do not overdo it. Go for a swim or walk for around 30 to 45 minutes each day, 5 days a week. It is important to practice stretches before and after exercising.
  • Ice: The next time you can feel pain or stiffness in the neck, place an icepack on the area. Alternately, you could also make do with a bag of frozen peas or corn.
  • Warm Baths: Soaking in a warm bathtub for about 15 to 20 minutes can soothe joints aches and relax the muscles in your neck. This remedy will also help you sleep comfortably.
  • Watch your Posture: Make sure that your back and neck are well-supported at all times, especially if you are working at a computer. Keep the monitor at eye-level, so that you do not have to move your neck up or down too much.
  • Sleeping with a Support: Use a pillow that supports your neck to reduce the chances of getting a neck ache in the morning. Also choose a firm mattress, which provides adequate support to your back muscles.
  • Yoga: The ancient practice of yoga comprises of various stretches, poses and exercises, which can reduce the tension in your back. This is excellent for alleviating the symptoms of arthritis.
  • Massage Therapy: A gentle massage around the neck area is excellent for temporary relief from the pain and stiffness caused by the condition. However, it is best to have the massage administered by a professional who is aware of your condition.

While these preventative care measures are quite safe if used correctly, it is best to check a doctor before trying any of them.

References

  1. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000436.htm

Warning: The reader of this article should exercise all precautionary measures while following instructions on the home remedies from this article. Avoid using any of these products if you are allergic to it. The responsibility lies with the reader and not with the site or the writer.
More articles from the Health advice Category