CERVICAL SPONDYLOSIS (Arthritis of the Neck)
Neck pain is extremely common. It can be caused by many things, and is most often related to getting older.
Like the rest of the body, the bones in the neck slowly degenerate as we age. This frequently results in arthritis. Arthritis of the neck is called cervical spondylosis.
Cervical spondylosis is the degeneration of the joints in the neck. It becomes increasingly more common as people age. More than 85% of people over age 60 are affected.
Although it is a form of arthritis, cervical spondylosis rarely becomes a crippling or disabling type (AAOS, 2015).
Pain from cervical spondylosis can be mild to severe. It is sometimes worsened by looking up or down for a long time, or with activities such as driving or reading a book. It also feels better with rest or lying down.
Additional symptoms include:
- Neck pain and stiffness (may be worse with activity)
- Numbness and weakness in arms, hands, and fingers
- Trouble walking, loss of balance, or weakness in hands or legs
- Muscle spasms in neck and shoulders
- Grinding and popping sound/feeling in neck with movement
NECK PAIN TREATMENT
Treatment for cervical spondylosis depends on the severity of your signs and symptoms. The goal of treatment is to relieve the neck pain, help you maintain your usual activities as much as possible, and prevent permanent injury to the spinal cord and nerves.
If over-the-counter pain relievers don’t help, your doctor might prescribe:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Prescription-strength ibuprofen (Ibuprofen) or naproxen sodium (Anaprox, Anaprox DS) might be needed to relieve pain and inflammation.
- Corticosteroids. Oral medications, such as prednisone, might help ease pain. If your pain is severe, your doctor might suggest steroid injections.
- Muscle relaxants. Certain drugs, such as cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril) and methocarbamol (Robaxin), can help relieve muscle spasms in the neck.
- Anti-seizure medications. Some types of epilepsy medications, such as gabapentin (Neurontin) and pregabalin (Lyrica), can dull the pain of damaged nerves.
- Antidepressants. Certain antidepressant medications have been found to help ease neck pain from cervical spondylosis.
- Prescription pain relievers. Your doctor might prescribe oxycodone (Percocet, Roxicet).
A physical therapist can teach you exercises to help stretch and strengthen the muscles in your neck and shoulders. Some people with cervical spondylosis benefit from the use of traction, which can help provide more space within the spine if nerve roots are being pinched.
Your doctor might recommend trying acupuncture to reduce your pain. Acupuncture is best provided by a licensed acupuncture practitioner.
If conservative treatment fails or if your neurological signs and symptoms — such as weakness in your arms or legs — worsen, you might need surgery to create more room for your spinal cord and nerve roots.
The surgery might involve:
- Removing a herniated disk or bone spurs
- Removing part of a vertebra
- Fusing a segment of the neck using bone graft and hardware
Risk factors for cervical spondylosis include:
- Age. Cervical spondylosis is a normal part of aging.
- Occupation. Jobs that involve repetitive neck motions, awkward positioning or a lot of overhead work put extra stress on your neck.
- Neck injuries. Previous neck injuries appear to increase the risk of cervical spondylosis.
- Genetic factors. Some individuals in certain families will experience more of these changes over time, while others will not.
- Smoking. Smoking has been linked to increased neck pain.