Cervical arthritis, also known as neck arthritis or cervical spondylosis, is a medical condition that affects the upper portion of the spine. More specifically, it pertains to the cervical vertebrae that run through the neck to the base of the skull, where the vertebrae end, or begin depending on your point of view. This condition eventually affects everyone, regardless of ethnicity, overall health and gender, though most people show no symptoms.
The good thing about arthritis of the cervical vertebrae is that it tends to be asymptomatic, or without symptoms, which means you do not feel pain, grinding, warmth or experience swelling and inflammation. However, this is also a bad thing because if you do not have symptoms, you cannot possibly know anything is wrong and that you need to see a doctor, thereby allowing this untreated condition to worsen.
In the event the vertebrae deteriorate so badly, surgery is often the only option to remedy the situation and provide any relief, as less invasive treatments do not work for severe joint damage.
If you have cervical arthritis, you can experience a number of symptoms, all of which can help your doctor to determine your condition. For starters, any pain you feel with this type of arthritis usually occurs in the neck, shoulders and at the base of, or just below, the skull. You may also experience headaches and pain in other parts of your body, such as the arms and legs, as the infected joint may put pressure on a nerve, thus causing pain in an area unrelated to that of the diseased vertebrae.
Aside from symptoms, cervical arthritis can appear with, or result in, comorbidities, like cervical spondylotic myelopathy. Both of these conditions occur because of joint deterioration in the spine and can result in compression of the spinal column.
This condition compounds the arthritis by causing similar symptoms so if you do feel the effects of your deteriorating neck vertebrae, you may feel it twice as much or more frequently. Additionally, cervical spondylotic myelopathy can cause the legs or hands to become weak and can also present with numbness in the hands.
Another ailment, known as disc osteophyte complex, or bone spurs, may also be a consequence of cervical arthritis. Bone spurs often appear if your spine is deteriorating, injured or weak as a result of your body’s attempt to try and compensate for its loss. In other words, your body works to create new bone at the site of injury but there is either too much bone or it does not grow properly, thus forming a nodule on the spine.
This only becomes a problem if the nodule interferes with nerve activity, a common occurrence since this misplaced bone could block the neural pathway or compress a nerve. As in the case of cervical spondylotic myelopathy, the symptoms of cervical arthritis may become twofold and the conditions feed off each other, making a bad situation worse.
The growth of new bone may also lead to another condition that eventually interferes with the nerve activity that occurs within the spinal column. An overgrowth of bone in the spinal region creates an obstruction because you end up with too much material in too small a space.
The end result is that the vertebrae lose their elasticity, making movement difficult, nerve roots are victims of compression and the spinal cord now has a smaller encasement. Ultimately, you develop pain, tingling or numbness in your arms and legs, inflammation and headaches.
Cervical arthritis affects men about a decade earlier than women but at some point, everyone ends up with this degenerative disease. It is a natural part of the aging process and though inevitable, you can work with your primary care provider to minimize the severity of the disease and its symptoms.
Assistive Devices to Ease Arthritis Pain and Movement
Heated Mattress Pad - resting also promotes healing of inflammation, stiffness and joint pain but when you add the application of heat, it increases the natural healing response, creating a more effective and quicker result.
Magnetic Mattress Pad - using magnets that are in the shape of a disc is better as these provide the best magnetic field without interruption.
Book Holder - reduce strain and allow for comfortable reading while protecting joints from added stress, allowing book lovers to enjoy reading without pain.
Adaptive Clothing - can make life with arthritis much more convenient and reduces the chance of injury, flare-ups, pain or discomfort.
Hair Brush - can make you feel better, especially when you are trying to get ready for a hot night out on the town.