Cervical Osteoarthritis: Signs, Symptoms and Treatment
What is Cervical Osteoarthritis?
Cervical osteoarthritis (also known as cervical spondylosis) is an age-related arthritis that affects your neck.
It’s a very common condition among older people. In fact, over 85% of people older than 60 have some degree of cervical osteoarthritis.
What Causes Cervical Osteoarthritis?
Your cervical spine is the 7 small bones or vertebrae in your neck (known as C1-C7). Sandwiched between each bone is a thick spongy disc that helps your neck move freely and absorbs shock when you move.
Ageing is the biggest cause of cervical osteoarthritis. As you get older, there are many changes in your neck, including:
- Your discs dehydrating and shrinking, causing your bones to rub together uncomfortably
- Bones and ligaments in your neck thickening and encroaching on your spine
- Herniated discs where a crack develops in your disc, allowing the gel to leak and press on your nerves causing numbness and tingling
- Bone spurs, where your body unhelpfully tries to strengthen your spine by growing extra bone to support it.
- Neck injuries (in a car accident, for example), which can accelerate the ageing process
- Overuse through a job or hobby that involves repetitive movements or frequent heavy lifting that worsens the wear and tear on your spine.
What Are the Symptoms of Cervical Osteoarthritis?
You might not have any obvious symptoms of cervical osteoarthritis. Many people have the condition without being particularly aware of it.
The most common symptoms include:
- Pain or stiffness in your neck, shoulders or arms
- Headache that traces back to your neck (neck pain headaches)
- Difficulty turning your neck, which can make it hard to drive
- Grinding noise or feeling when you turn your head.
Some people notice that their symptoms are worse at the start and end of the day.
Cervical osteoarthritis can cause complications such as:
- Cervical myelopathy – pressure on your spinal cord causes tingling, numbness and weakness in your limbs, coordination difficulties, abnormal reflexes, incontinence.
- Cervical radiculopathy – bone spurs press on your nerves and cause pain shooting down your arms.
How Do You Diagnose Cervical Osteoarthritis?
Cervical osteoarthritis is diagnosed after a physical examination and imaging scans such as sn X-rays, CT scan or MRI.
How Do You Treat Cervical Osteoarthritis?
- Physiotherapy to stretch and strengthen your muscles and relieve pain, which may include traction to gently stretch your joints and muscles or posture therapy
- Medication to reduce pain and inflammation
- A soft cervical collar to rest your neck muscles for a short time.
If your neck is still not improving, your doctor may recommend steroid injections to reduce pain.
If you have developed complications such as myelopathy or radiculopathy, your doctor may recommend surgery as a last resort.
How Can The Brisbane Spine Clinic Help?
We are experienced physiotherapists, often called on to advise on alternatives to spinal surgery.
We will examine you thoroughly and listen carefully to your medical history and symptoms. We can advise you on which neck exercises to avoid and which to use. We can also advise you on lifestyle changes such as the benefits of osteoarthritis neck pillows.
Physical therapy for cervical osteoarthritis may help to ease your symptoms and make you more comfortable. Please make an appointment today so we can help you.
All information is general in nature. Patients should consider their own personal circumstances and seek a second opinion.