Any part of our spine can what is called arthritis. Cervical arthritis means neck arthritis. It may also be called wear and tear, old age, osteoarthritis or spondylosis. The neck is a very mobile structure and as we age, work and play sport, this can lead to the neck become degenerated – note degenerated is a negative word and a more appropriate/useful term may just be ‘used’. The process involves moisture loss and tearing (not painful) within our intervertebral discs that leads to a reduced ability of the spinal joints to absorb the forces of movement. Over time this builds up with the final stage being termed neck arthritis.
The symptoms of neck arthritis are expansive and not necessarily correlated to how much arthritis that may exist. For example sometimes only subtle loss of neck movement is noticed. At other times continue dull pain is the major symtpoms. As cervical arthritis continues some patients will develop shooting pain in nerves. As there is a full spectrum of symtpoms – sometimes no symptoms are experienced at all, even if there is x-ray evidence of arthritic changes in the neck.
Chiropractors and physiotherapists use a combination of specific muscle, joint and exercise treatments to help manage cervical arthritis. Self directed exercise (self management) takes a large component of this. There may also be a component of hands on treatment such as spinal mobilisation, manipulations and mechanical treatments such as McKenzie Method.