Cervical Osteoarthritis (Neck Arthritis)

By Sydney CBD Osteopath Dr Abbey Davidson

What is Cervical Osteoarthritis?Osteoarthritis in the neck involves the facet joints and the intervertebral joints

Osteoarthritis (OA) in the spine is also known as degenerative joint disease (DJD) or spondylosis.

In a healthy synovial joint, a protective cartilage lays over bony surfaces to reduce friction and cushion the joint. With age, wear-and-tear and trauma, this cartilage can start to degenerate and expose the bony surfaces to each other and this results in what can be painful bony changes within the joint. In the neck, this involves the facet joints and the intervertebral joints as the intervertebral discs become smaller.

Arthritis can often be perceived as an “old person’s” disease because, by the age of 70, most people will show symptoms of osteoarthritis. However, it is important to note that young people can also be effected. Osteoarthritis is more common in females than males.


What are the signs & symptoms of Cervical Osteoarthritis?

You may have Cervical Osteoarthritis is you are experiencing the following symptoms:

  • Progressive onset of pain and symptoms
  • Morning joint stiffness
  • Aching joint pain
  • Reduced range of motion in the neck and spine


What can I do to help myself with Cervical Osteoarthritis?

Although osteoarthritis is considered a non-inflammatory arthritis, more recent research has shown that inflammation does play a role in the development of symptoms. Therefore, we recommend applying ice to the neck region to minimise local inflammation. We recommend applying the ice indirectly (with a towel as a buffer) to the affected area for no longer than 20 minutes at a time. Topical anti-inflammatory creams and gels can also be of use, but please check with your pharmacist and read label prior to application. You can also consider applying a heat-pack to promote blood flow to the effected joints, tissue repair and relaxation of tissues of the neck.

Taking supplements can be useful for those with osteoarthritis, such as Glucosamine & Chondroitin to promote cartilage health, and Turmeric and Fish Oil, which are anti-inflammatories. Your pharmacist or Doctor may prescribe you further pain relieving and anti-inflammatory medication if necessary.

In the interest of maintaining your neck range of motion, we recommend daily gentle neck range of motion exercises within pain limits. It is ideal if you follow these with the icing as described above. General aerobic and strength exercise is also encouraged as it assists with pain management and range of motion maintenance.

For more information on Cervical Osteoarthritis, watch the following video by Sydney CBD Osteopath Dr Abbey Davidson, or click here.


When should I see a health professional for Cervical Osteoarthritis?

You should consider seeing a health professional, such as a chiropractor, physiotherapist or osteopath, if you are experiencing the following:

  • Trouble participating in normal daily activities, such work, exercise, and hobbies
  • Pain in getting more intense, more frequent, or is not improving
  • Reduced neck range of motion
  • Neck pain associated with sever stiffness and high fever
  • Associated pins, needles, tingles or weakness in the upper limbs


Sydney CBD Osteopath Dr Abbey Davidson treating Cervical OsteoarthritisWhat can a health professional do to help with Cervical Osteoarthritis?

There is no cure for osteoarthritis, but with appropriate long term management, sufferers can maintain a relatively normal quality of life.

In your appointment with a health professional, your practitioner will ask you a series of questions about your pain, symptoms and general health to form a clear idea of if you are likely suffering from cervical osteoarthritis. Assessment and provocative testing of the neck region will also assist with the practitioners working diagnosis. If they have any further concerns, you may be sent for further imaging.

Your health practitioner will use stretching, soft tissue, muscle activation, joint manipulation, mobilisation/articulation and other techniques to address your symptoms, attempting to improve or maintain your current range of motion, improve joint nutrition and manage your pain levels.

A practitioner will also tailor lifestyle advice, nutritional/dietary advice, stretching and exercises for you. This will be aimed at long term management of your osteoarthritis as opposed to immediate symptomatic relief.

For more information on other conditions of the neck, click on the following links:

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