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Last updated: Oct 6, 2021

Arthritis in the Neck

Constant wear and tear on the bones in your neck creates the perfect storm for arthritis. While it’s a common condition for elderly Americans after years of abusing their neck muscles and bone structure, anyone can wear out the cushions that keep neck bones from rubbing against each other. The repetitive motions you engage in during early adulthood can increase your risks of developing arthritis in the neck earlier rather than later. Learn about the early warning signs of arthritis and begin early intervention to relieve neck pain. Call Redefine Healthcare, your New Jersey pain management center, for a consultation.

degenerative arthritis in neckThroughout your life, your neck works hard to carry your head around. The weight it’s carrying can be compared to a ten-pound bowling ball. You may put additional strain on your neck by hunching over your computer or cell phone for hours at a time. The discs and joints in your neck area, called the cervical spine, slowly degenerate as you age. This condition is called cervical spondylosis or arthritis of the neck. You don’t have to be a senior to suffer from this condition either, although it’s more common in people over 60.

Neck arthritis is a widespread condition that can begin as early as age 40. Early intervention and treatment for arthritis in the neck are critical to slow progression and prevent further damage to your discs.

If you’re experiencing pain or stiffness in your neck that isn’t improving, the specialists at Redefine Healthcare can help improve your condition. An accurate diagnosis tells you if you’re developing arthritis or some other debilitating neck disorder causing your neck pain.

Symptoms of Arthritis in the Neck

You may not have any neck arthritis symptoms when it first begins, or you may experience stiffness and mild to severe pain in your neck from the start of the condition.

Other symptoms you may experience include:

  • Popping or grinding sounds when you turn your head
  • Headaches
  • Muscle spasms in the neck and shoulders
  • Numbness or weakness in your arms or hands

You may find that the pain worsens if you look up or down for extended periods. You can aggravate the discomfort by holding your neck in the same position for a long time. You may do this unconsciously when reading a book, for example, or pouring over your cellphone.

What Causes Neck Arthritis?

Degenerative changes occur in your spine as you age. Normal wear and tear occurs naturally throughout your life, even if you’re careful to exercise and eat right. Vertebral discs lose water content and height, which causes them to weaken.

Weakened discs allow your facet joints to nudge closer together. Facet joints in the neck are the joints that allow you to turn and move your head and neck freely. When cartilage breaks down in the facet joints, you experience stiffness and reduced range of motion in your neck.

If the cartilage wears off completely, bone rubs on bone. You may end up growing new bone known as bone spurs in the facet joints. Bone spurs create a narrowing of the space that nerve roots pass through, a condition that eventually becomes painful.

Risk Factors for Developing Arthritis in the Neck

The most common risk factor for developing this condition is the aging process.

Other risk factors include:

  • A family history of arthritis or neck problems
  • An injury or trauma to your neck
  • Smoking
  • Anxiety or depression

Any type of repetitive movement involving your neck — or sudden jolts to your neck — can increase your risk of developing arthritis in your neck. An example is a job that involves overhead work or sports such as football and snow skiing.

Diagnosis and Treatment for Arthritis in the Neck

To diagnose neck arthritis, your New Jersey doctor checks your reflexes, muscle strength, and the range of motion in your neck. You may need an imaging test, such as an x-ray, MRI, CT scan, or myelography. Your specialists in pain care may also order nerve function tests to see if your nerves are sending signals to muscles efficiently.

Neck arthritis treatment aims to relieve pain, prevent permanent damage to the nerves of your spinal cord, and allow you to maintain or resume your usual activities.

Your treatment may include:

  • Over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which include ibuprofen and naproxen
  • Ice and heat
  • Acetaminophen for pain relief
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Steroid-based injections
  • Surgery, but usually only if you have severe pain that hasn’t been relieved by more conservative forms of treatment or if you have compressed spinal cord or a spinal nerve

Get help for the symptoms of arthritis in the neck as soon as possible. Relief from neck pain allows you to do all the things you love to do so you can live life to the fullest. Contact Redefine Healthcare today to set up a consultation. Choose from four locations in northern New Jersey in Union, Paterson, Edison, or Clifton.

This page was published on Oct 9, 2019, modified on Oct 6, 2021 by Dr. Freeman (Pain Management Specialist) of Redefine Healthcare
Dr. Eric D. Freeman, a highly regarded pain specialist

Dr. Eric D. Freeman, a highly regarded pain specialist in New Jersey, is board-certified and fellowship-trained in Interventional Spine and Pain Management and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. He is an expert in minimally invasive spinal procedures and non-surgical orthopedic care.

Dr. Freeman is a member of the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and the Interventional Pain Practice Society. In addition, he serves as the Immediate Past President of the New Jersey Society of Interventional Pain Physicians. Dr. Freeman is well-known in the field of pain management as a leading pain management doctor, having been named one of "America's Top Physicians."

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