Cervical (neck) osteoarthritis is also called neck arthritis or cervical spondylosis. Cervical osteoarthritis really just describes the wear and tear in your neck as we age. We all get this to some degree but some a little more than others. It involves your bones, disc, joints and nerves in the neck. Essentially, the process that is the driving force behind all of this wear and tear are injuries to our intervertebral discs. This damage to our neck discs involves the development of little tears that cause the disc to break down. The middle of our discs (nucleus pulposus) needs fluid to be spongy and act as good shock absorbers. As we loose with central fluid and the ‘sponginess’ of the disc reduces it looses its ability to absorb forces and this leads to osteoarthritis.
Generally speaking cervical osteoarthritis is most common in people over 50 years of age. However age is not the only risk factor, previous injury and occupations that are very labor intensive and specific sports activities such as gymnastics tend to increase the risk also. This is simply because you use your neck more, and the more you use something, the more risk of wear and tear.
Symptoms of cervical osteoarthritis
The most common symptom of cervical osteoarthritis is neck pain and stiffness. Headache is also common and pain from the neck may project into the shoulders and arms. Lack of mobility of the neck, especially in rotation is common. Many patients will describe a grinding or ‘sandy’ noise when they rotate or movement their neck from side to side.
Treatment of cervical osteoarthritis
Treatment of cervical osteoarthritis can be done conservatively (chiropractic and physiotherapy) and is in most cases very successful. Chiropractic and physiotherapy are the most logical first treatment options. At Sydney Spine & Sports Centre (S3C) Balmain and Dee Why treatments are aimed at reducing any pain and improving function. Our physiotherapists and chiropractors incorporate a multimodal approach in the treatment of neck osteoarthritis and this involves joint therapy just a mobilisation, manipulation and mechanical strategies to improve motion (McKenzie Method). Muscle therapies and strengthening exercises. Sometimes, our chiropractors or physiotherapists may need to send someone for an injection however this is rare. Even more rare is the need for surgery and this is only considered if is compromise to the spinal cord or spinal nerves.