What is cervical osteoarthritis?

qu'est ce que l'arthrose cervicale

Cervical osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage in the joints of the cervical spine is damaged or degenerates. Cervical osteoarthritis is very common in people over the age of 50 and often goes unnoticed because of the lack of symptoms.

The most common symptom of cervical osteoarthritis is neck pain (neck pain) that occurs with movement. In addition, patients with cervical osteoarthritis often report stiffness that lasts a short time and improves with movement.

Neck pain can occur acutely, that is, with a rapid onset and disappearance within a few days, or more frequently, it will behave as chronic neck pain. In this case, the pain appears more slowly and lasts longer (weeks or months). It is usually mild to moderate in intensity and is located in the back and lower part of the neck.

Cervical osteoarthritis is sometimes asymptomatic and is diagnosed as a finding on x-rays of the cervical spine performed for another reason.

The cause of osteoarthritis is considered to be the consequence of a sum of genetic and environmental factors, although in some cases there is an obvious cause such as previous trauma, infection, congenital malformation, etc. In these cases, OA is considered secondary (a consequence) of this process. In the vast majority of cases of cervical osteoarthritis, there is no clear cause for the osteoarthritis and it is therefore considered to occur due to the sum of certain genetic and environmental factors.

The diagnosis of osteoarthritis is made taking into account the symptoms explained by the patient (pain, limitation of movement and stiffness) as well as the examination performed by the rheumatologist in which pain and limitation of mobility are usually highlighted. The most frequently requested additional examinations are simple X-rays of the cervical spine in which the typical signs of cervical osteoarthritis can be observed.

The goal of treatment is to improve pain and quality of life. Several alternatives are available: physical measures, medication and surgery.

Pharmacological treatment usually consists of the use of conventional analgesics (paracetamol) and if this is not sufficient, anti-inflammatory drugs can be added during the acute phase of the pain. In patients for whom the use of anti-inflammatory drugs is contraindicated, opioid analgesics such as tramadol may be useful. On the other hand, if the muscle contraction component is considered important, muscle relaxants can be used during the acute phase of neck pain.

The rheumatologist is the most experienced physician in diagnosing cervical osteoarthritis and differentiating it from other joint diseases, as well as establishing the optimal treatment based on the degree of disease. The rheumatologist will refer you to other specialists if necessary and will advise you in a timely manner on the advisability of surgery.

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