When talking about arthritis, you may think about creaky knees, painful or swollen fingers. If you feel pain when you turn your head or have a stiff neck, it can be caused by arthritis.
Like the rest of the body, disks and joints' degeneration in the neck occurs due to wear and tear. Osteoarthritis of the neck developed over time or can be due to an injury.
Inflammatory types of neck arthritis are commonly seen in people under the age of 40. It is caused by an overactive immune system that attacks the cartilage and joints in your neck, causing pain and stiffness. Chronic inflammation can cause permanent damage to bones, discs, ligaments, tendons or nerves. Degenerative types of neck arthritis are more common in people 60 years or older because it's a type of wear-and-tear on your body from stress you have experienced throughout life. This wear increases as we get older but can be slowed with physical therapy treatments such as massages, stretching exercises and even acupuncture treatments .
Several things can cause neck pain. But often, it comes with age. Arthritis is also known as cervical spondylosis, age-related wear and tear episode that developed over time. This condition is common and affects more than 85% of people over 60 years old. People with arthritis mostly feel pain and stiffness in the neck, but some symptoms are not noticeable. Usually, cervical spondylosis reacts well to conservative treatment, such as medication and physical therapy.
Causes of Neck Arthritis
Age is the most common cause of cervical spondylosis that arises from degenerative changes. Other factors that can increase the risk for developing cervical spondylosis and neck pain are:
- Genetics - family history of neck pain and spondylosis
- Occupation - jobs with repetitive neck movement and overhead work
- Depression or anxiety
- Previous injury or trauma to the neck
As the disks in the spine age and begin to bulge, it is losing water content. It begins to dry and weaken. Due to this, the disks lose their spaces and height. When joints experience pressure, they start to degenerate and form arthritis, similar to areas like the hip or knee joint. It is because the smooth, slippery cartilage that caps the joints wears away. Once the cartilage completely wears away, it results in bone rubbing bone.
Symptoms of Arthritis in the Neck
Arthritis in the neck is common, and their symptoms vary. For some people, arthritis in the neck shows no signs. If there are symptoms, it is usually pain and stiffness in the neck that comes from mild to severe. It becomes worse by looking up and down for a long time or doing activities where the neck is held in the same position for a long period, such as driving or reading.
Some of the symptoms of neck arthritis are:
- Grating or popping noise or feeling when you turn your neck
- Muscle contractions in the neck and shoulders
- Trouble walking
- Weakness in the hands or legs
- Loss of balance
Some other symptoms common in people with arthritis in the neck are radiculopathy and myelopathy. The radiculopathy is developed in the spinal nerve root, which is the nerve that branches off the main spinal cord. The force put on the spinal nerve root produces symptoms like pain, weakness, dullness, or electrical sensations down to the extremity. Myelopathy, on the other hand, is a condition that affects the spinal cord. Its symptoms involve compressed spinal nerve roots, radiculopathy, weakness, numbness, and pain.
Types of Arthritis that Affect the Neck
Neck pain has several possible causes. When neck pain or stiffness does not improve over time, it is diagnosed with a type of arthritis.
Osteoarthritis in the Neck
This type of arthritis is the generation of joints, spine, and discs in the spine's cervical part.
Rheumatoid Arthritis in the Neck
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease wherein the body's immune system is mistakenly attacking the joints' lining. Neck pain is its primary symptom, with the intensity of pain varies from person to person.
Spondyloarthritis in the Neck
Other types of neck arthritis are psoriatic arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis, considered a type of Spondyloarthritis. It is an inflammatory disease that involves both the joints and entheses, the portion where ligaments and tendons attach to the bones.
Physical therapy is a non-surgical treatment that doctors will recommend. There are specific exercises that can help relieve pain and strengthen weak and strained muscles. Physical therapy includes posture therapy or the application of traction to stretch joints and muscles of your neck.
Chiropractors manipulate and adjust the spine to relieve pain and improve mobility. By using different degrees of force in an effort to adjust misaligned joints, chiropractors are also improving the relationship between the spine and nervous system. It is believed to affect the function of all the organs and systems of the body.
Chiropractic care is the best option to manage the pain of neck arthritis. It is safe, non-surgical, and a great natural alternative to treat pain. Chiropractors are skilled professionals in detecting and correcting misaligned spine and joints that result in neck pain.
When your body is in proper alignment, the pressure is not only taken off the nerves, but the proper motion between bones and joints is being restored. This whole process increases flexibility and improves strength. Even if you don't touch your arthritic joint, treating the surrounding tissues can significantly reduce overall pain.
Chiropractic is a form of alternative medicine, so you don't have to be afraid that it will cause more pain. Chiropractors are doctors who specialize in the treatment and prevention of spinal issues including neck pain.
It's important to see your chiropractor as soon as possible when you first start experiencing symptoms because there can be serious consequences if left untreated, such as nerve damage or an injury that could affect your quality of life for years to come. The treatments are generally safe and effective for adults with acute or chronic neck pain caused by conditions like whiplash from car accidents or herniated discs.