Cervical spine arthritis is also known as spondylosis, a condition that affects the upper spine. Arthritis is generally caused by the wearing and tearing of cartilage in the joints, which results from injuries or aging.
Cervical spine arthritis is caused by degeneration of the cervical vertebrae caused by wearing-off of the cartilages in between them. This degeneration slowly narrows the nerve root spaces (foramen) between the vertebras and compresses the nerves in the spinal cord. When this happens, the nerves are inflamed bringing pain that extends to the arms.
Cervical spine arthritis is most common in people between 40 to 60 years old and is considered a normal part of the wear-and-tear as one gets old. However, cervical spine arthritis may develop early in some people perhaps as a result of injury or trauma to the back.
Cervical spine arthritis is more common in men than women with symptoms that are similar to the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis, which are frequently experienced by women.
Symptoms of cervical spine arthritis:
– Chronic neck pain especially when moving
– Numbness in the neck, arms and hands
– Weak muscles
– Tenderness or stiffening of the neck
– Difficulty in maintaining balance
Different tests are conducted to diagnose cervical spine arthritis. These are the following:
• X-rays – This is a very effective way to determine the level of degeneration in the spine.
• Myelogram or CT scan – This type of test provides a detailed spinal bone structure.
• MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scan- This test is performed to get a clearer picture of structures aside from the spine.
If these tests show that your cervical spine arthritis is severe, your physician may refer you to an orthopedic surgeon for further assessment.
Most cases of cervical spine arthritis respond well to different conservative treatments depending on the individual’s condition. Basically, neck rest is the first thing step of treatment. To help you with this, you need to consider proper body posture, the pillows that you use and the activities that you perform.
Anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen or painkillers are also recommended by doctors to treat cervical spine arthritis. These medicines are known to lessen the swelling and the pain. For severe pain, doctor-prescribed oral sedatives can also be taken but as much as possible they should be avoided.
Non-surgical treatments such as hot and cold compress as well as a massage can help alleviate pain. For some cases physical therapy is advised as well as exercises.
If all conservative methods failed, the last option in treating severe cervical spine arthritis is surgery. Some surgeries involve the removal of a portion of a bone to relieve spinal cord pressure. Other such surgeries involve bone fusion, removal of a damage disc or creating a space in the nerve roots. Patients should talk to their doctor about what type of surgery will work for them.