Cervical osteoarthritis is the wear and tear or degeneration of the cartilage of the cervical spine. The cervical spine is composed of seven vertebrae and intervertebral discs. The wear and tear occurs in the joints between two vertebrae. The degeneration progresses, creating bones outside the limits of the vertebrae, narrowing the space and exerting pressure that affects the nerves, which become inflamed, causing pain in the neck, shoulders and arms. It is very common in men and women over 50 years old.
Causes of cervical osteoarthritis
Hereditary and environmental
Cervical osteoarthritis is considered to be the result of hereditary and environmental factors such as previous trauma, poor sleeping posture, deformities, infection, nerve impingement, etc. It can occur at any age, although it usually appears between the ages of 30 and 50 or older, and worsens over time.
Symptoms of cervical osteoarthritis
Neck pain and stiffness
Symptoms that may suggest that cervicalgia (celvialgia) may be a case of cervical osteoarthritis are:
- Neck pain with movement.
- Temporary stiffness that improves with movement.
- Rapid onset of neck pain that disappears in a few days.
- Chronic neck pain of mild to moderate intensity in the back and lower neck.
Diagnosing Cervical Osteoarthritis
Cervical Spine X-rays
Cervical osteoarthritis or osteoarthritis may be asymptomatic and detected on cervical spine x-rays taken for another reason.
If symptoms are present, the doctor will order a description of the symptoms, a blood test, a physical examination looking for limitation of movement, stiffness and pain, and may order x-rays of the cervical spine.
He or she may also order CT and MRI scans and electromyography to measure nerve conduction velocity.
Treatment and Medications for Cervical Osteoarthritis
Analgesics, anti-inflammatories and physical therapy
The rheumatologist will prescribe analgesics and anti-inflammatories for attacks of pain. If anti-inflammatories are not possible, an opioid analgesic such as tramadol may be given. Muscle relaxants may also be prescribed to relieve the contracture.
Physical therapy can correct posture, align the spine and strengthen the neck. Heat, ice and electrical stimulation can be used for support. Certain types of orthopedic pillows are also recommended.
Traction therapy using weights and pulleys may also be considered, again under the supervision of a physician and physical therapist, or temporary neck immobilization with a neck brace.
Prevention of cervical osteoarthritis
The main measures to prevent cervical osteoarthritis are:
- Maintain good posture, as poor posture promotes wear and tear on the cervical spine. Try to keep your head centered on your spine, shoulders in a straight line with your hips and ears directly over your shoulders.
- Stand up, walk around and stretch your neck and shoulders frequently if you work long hours at the computer.
- The computer screen should be at eye level and the knees should be lower than the hips.
- It is important to avoid holding the phone between your ear and shoulder when working on the computer or doing anything else. Headphones or a speakerphone can be used.
- Do not carry heavy bags over your shoulder.
- Sleep in a good position with your head and neck in line with your body. An orthopedic or ergonomic pillow A pillow under the neck and cushions to elevate the thighs can be used.
- Do not smoke.
We hope these tips will help you and improve your quality of life.