Arthritis Neck Pain: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment Options

Arthritis is nothing but the inflammation of the joints. Sad to reveal, this is the leading cause of disability in the United States.

Arthritis Neck Pain
Arthritis Neck Pain

As such there are many types of joints present in the human body like the ball and socket joint, pivot joint, hinge joint, synovial joint, movable and immovable joints, etc.

Arthritis can occur in any joint of the body. The most frequently targeted joint for arthritis problem is the knee joint.

Next to the knee joint, the high incidence area of arthritis is the spinal/cervical joint that is the neck and back region.

Cervical arthritis or neck arthritis is most common among people who use their neck continuously for a longer period of time without giving proper rest and relaxation to joint muscles and tissues.

Types of Cervical Arthritis

Generally there are two types of arthritis which occur in the cervical region. These are: Osteoarthritis & Rheumatoid arthritis. In both these arthritis conditions severe chronic pain is experienced in the neck region.

Although the two conditions are many times interchangeably used in place of one another, the basic difference between the two lies in the nature of disease.

Osteoarthritis of bones is a degenerative condition which generally occurs due to increased wear and tear of joints. It is characterized by increased wearing out of articulating cartilages, leading to stiffness and pain in the joints.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a slow deterioration of bones which occurs as person grows older. This is usually an auto immune disorder which develops inflammatory joint symptoms all over the body. As it is an age related disorder, it is rarely noticed at young age.

Patient suffering from these both conditions usually complain of pain and stiffness in the cervical region.

The major investigative procedures which concludes the cause for the arthritic neck pain are cervical X-ray, CSF analysis, bone density test, MRI of cervical vertebrae, etc.

The differential diagnosis should be made along with accurate tests and investigations for confirming the real cause and treatment options.

What Causes Arthritis In The Neck?

Arthritis is one of the major pathological conditions which hurts the majority of the world’s population, particularly the age groups above 50 years. Major causes for the occurrence of neck arthritis are:

Improper posture: People who maintains wrong posture for long time (mainly during the office works, sleeping time, etc.) are prone to get neck arthritis at the earliest.

Age: The age of the human is one another causative factor to suffer from neck arthritis problem. Especially the person whose lifestyle is sedentary or filled with strenuous labor activities will get neck arthritis very soon in their life.

Because of long years of usage and various other additional factors, the old age people use to get osteophyte into the bones (mainly at the vertebrae) which in turn results in the problem of neck arthritis.

Trauma or Accidental Injury: In case of fall injury, hit injury or heavy accidental injury over the cervical spine it causes bony lesion which finally ends with arthritis of the neck or cervical joint.

Calcium Malfunction: People who suffer from metabolic dysfunction also may suffer from arthritis soon in their life. Additionally when there is less intake of calcium and less production of Vitamin-D in the body then it may lead to bone weakness which also causes arthritis of the neck.

This mainly happens with the people who are taking less calcium in their diet and use their cervical spine enormously, like computer professionals.

Pregnancy: During pregnancy, body experiences drastic changes among which hormonal changes are the major one. Due to these hormonal imbalance and metabolic alterations pregnant women are at higher risk to acquire neck arthritis.

Symptoms Of Arthritis In The Neck

Nearly everyone who has arthritis, feel the pain and stiffness early in the morning (particularly when they are waking up from the bed after sleep).

As the activity start gradually, the pain and stiffness will subside considerably. Few of the major symptoms seen in case of arthritis of the neck area are listed below:

  • neck pain and stiffness
  • Radiating pain to the shoulder blades
  • Headache mainly at the back of the neck
  • Irritability mainly when moving the neck
  • Numbness or weakness in the arms or sometimes in the whole hand
  • Spasmodic pain in the cervical region and muscle spasms on and off in the neck area
  • Sleep disturbances due to stiffness and intolerable pain in the neck region, etc.

Few people sometimes also experiences cracking sound when moving the neck suddenly. This makes the individuals to get stressed thinking that their neck bones are broken inside.

Also Check: Best Pillow For Rheumatoid Arthritis

Best Neck Arthritis Treatment Options

As arthritis is basically a age related disease, it is hard to cure it completely. However leading a healthy lifestyle along with some of the best arthritis treatment options, you can easily help in relieving the pain caused.

1- Brace/Collar: First and foremost treatment advice which most of the doctors recommend to their arthritis patients is to wear the neck brace or cervical collar. The main objective of wearing the cervical collar is to prevent sudden rapid movements of the neck which in turn reduces the progression of pain in the neck region.

2- Physiotherapy: The next treatment protocol which most of the doctor’s advice is getting physical therapy treatment. Physiotherapy for arthritis can help the arthritic neck patient most if they are suffering from chronic conditions.

3- Cold: Another effective therapy which is suggested in case of acute neck pain due to arthritis  is cryotherapy or ice therapy. Just applying the ice over the cervical region or doing rolling massage with the help of ice cubes over the back of the neck helps to reduce the neck pain readily.

4- Heat: It is proven fact that heat helps to reduce the swelling and inflammation of the joints and helps in enhancing the blood circulation. People with arthritis in the neck and back region are therefore recommended to get it relieved with hot packs or warm towels.

These when applied to the painful areas (like the joints and back) relieves chronic stiffness and pain. Similar to this water therapy in a warm or heated pool also can do wonders for the arthritis patients and can be tried out regularly.

5- Medication: When coming to arthritis neck pain medication, most of the doctors use to prescribe NSAID’s (Non Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs), because these drugs act immediately and reduce the pain instantly. These are highly needed for the patients with severe and highly intolerable chronic pain in their neck.

However it is good to know that most of these medications can cause side effects if taken for long. So it is not the best treatment option in case if you want to get the long term permanent treatment.

6- Exercises: It has been seen that leading a healthy and stress free life is the only solution which can help you out in long run. If you have been diagnosed with neck arthritis, you should care for doing regular exercises (or at-least regular walk for – an hour a day) and include healthy diet in your routine for leading a healthy and problem free life.

In case of assisted exercises, patients have to perform the exercise by themselves with the help of the assistive tools like crutches, sticks, weight bars, low weight dumbbells, etc. By doing so, the muscles, tendons and ligaments around the affected joints get strengthened and thus helps in reduction in swelling, pain and stiffness.

7- Acupuncture: The next major natural treatment advised for arthritis is acupuncture. By having a single course of acupuncture therapy, which is for minimum 10 days, one can relieve from most of the arthritis symptoms.

And gradually the person start getting recovered from his problem very soon. Acupuncture, along with electrical stimulation is much more effective and is considered as one of the best arthritis in the neck home remedies.

5 Best Exercises For Relieving Your Neck Arthritis Pain

Visiting your doctor or physiotherapist can help you learn about the best physiotherapy exercises for neck pain that can be done at home for relieving the neck arthritis, swelling and inflammation.

Neck Exercises for Arthritis
Neck Exercises for Arthritis

Make a note that you perform these exercises for neck arthritis gently and smoothly, as sudden movements or jerks can make the conditions worse.

Some of the best exercises for arthritis in neck are as follows:

1. Simple Neck Stretching: Neck stretching can be done by dropping and raising your neck slowly and steadily. Stand still or sit on chair for performing this exercise. Now slowly try to drop your head in the forward direction to touch the chin and chest.

Remain in this position for 5-10 seconds and take your head back to the normal position. Now bend your head backwards to see the roof.

Remain in the position for 5-10 seconds and then get back to normal position. You can repeat these simple stretches five times to make your muscles flexible and tension free.

2. Neck Rotation: While performing this exercise keep the whole body relax with the spine erect. You can sit on a chair or stand erect with good posture. Now turn your head to the right while keeping your chin straight.

Remain in the position for 5-10 seconds and return to normal. Then rotate the neck to the left side keeping your chin still.

After remaining in this position for about 5-10 seconds return to normal position. You can repeat this exercise five times in each side.

3. Static Neck Exercises: One of the best exercises for arthritis in the neck is the static neck exercise.

These static neck exercises not only help the person to relieve the pain that arise due to neck rheumatoid arthritis but also it helps in strengthening their neck muscles. The static exercise can be done in all the directions of the neck including side bending and tilting.

The person need to bend the neck forward (or side ways) and at the same time should exert heavy pressure with the help of hand against the forward bending of the neck.

By doing exercise in such a way the head is kept static at the same place without any further movement except the jerky vibrations.

Other movements can also be exhibited while performing these isometric neck exercises so that other muscles present around the neck region get the benefits.

4. Shoulder Rolls: Shoulders are the most important body parts to care for when you are focusing on your neck region.

As shoulders support your neck muscles, exercising your shoulders means stronger shoulder muscles and hence stronger neck. Shoulder rolls are one of the most basic and easiest exercises that can be performed for relieving the neck rheumatoid arthritis pain.

For performing this exercise you need to sit on a chair or stand straight with your feet apart at some distance. Now roll your shoulders smoothly in the up, back and down in only one direction.

Repeat the exercise for five times and wait for few seconds. Now roll your shoulders in the reverse direction i.e. in up, forward and down direction. Try this also for five times.

5. Shoulder Shrugs: Shoulder shrugs are one of the best exercises for strengthening the muscles that are present around your neck.

In addition to relieving the neck arthritis pain these exercises helps in reducing the dizziness along with treating the vertigo symptoms.

For performing this exercise you need to stand straight with slightly bent knees and arms present at your sides. Now lift your shoulders to the height of your neck to hold them at the highest point possible for five seconds.

Now slowly bring down your shoulders to normal. You can repeat this exercise for about 20 times.

Neck Arthritis Exercises To Avoid

People suffering from arthritis often think that most of the exercises that involves neck and back motion will be helpful for them. However the truth is bit different.

Studies showed that there are many neck exercises that should be completely avoided so that you do not make your neck and back worse. Doing these exercises do not help your pain and will only exacerbate the condition to make the it even worse:

  • Sit-ups
  • Leg lifts
  • Crunches
  • Flutter kicks
  • Heavy weight lifting
  • Twisting/turning neck in circles

Just performing the above mentioned important exercises daily (and avoiding the given ones) can easily eliminate the neck arthritis pain and stiffness slowly in just six to eight weeks.

As a starter you may feel discomfort while performing these neck exercises for stiff neck. You can therefore try one or two repetitions of each of these exercises to begin. As you improve and get used to the exercise movements you can increase the number of reps.

Care that you do not feel the increase in neck pain while performing these exercises for arthritis in neck. If in case it hurts, you should stop the exercises and consult your doctor or physiotherapist at the earliest.

When Is Neck Surgery For Arthritis Recommended?

Neck arthritis surgery is prescribed only after your physician goes through its diagnosis and confirms that all other options for treatment may not prove helpful.

It basically depends upon the cause and severity of the pain along with the limitations of your movements and other factors. Initially, your physician tries to treat neck arthritis with non–surgical method and if the problem is found to be serious and not treatable, then neck surgerPermalinksy for arthritis is suggested as the best option for treatment.

While getting surgery it should be noted that the success of any surgery depends on many factors which also includes patient’s overall health, skill of the surgeon, ability of the patient to undergo physical therapy, etc.

Now a day’s most of the health care professionals are presenting a range of options for treating neck arthritis disease. But to be true there is no perfect cure for these types of diseases (which can cure the problem completely) and most of the sufferers are bound to experience long term painful conditions.

Preparing Yourself for Surgery

When planning for getting the surgery for treating neck arthritis, your surgeon may recommend you doing number of things so as to prepare yourself for getting the surgery. These may include:

Losing weight: Overweight can interfere with surgical procedures and you are required to lose your excess weight before you can get a surgery. Obesity while getting the surgery can actually lead to high blood pressure, heart diseases, diabetes, etc. and thus losing excess weight around your neck, shoulders and back area is essentially important.

Stop smoking and alcohol: Smoking and consuming alcohol can cause great risks during the surgery and thus you are required to stop smoking at least 2 months before getting the surgery. The probable risks may include heart disease, circulation problem, chest infection, poor immunity and healing power.

Balanced diet and exercise: Consuming a well-balanced diet before few months of getting surgery can reduce many risks of surgery. You need to consume healthy green vegetables and food that might lower your cholesterol levels. Taking fibre, fruits and vegetables along with lowering sugar intake and dairy products is often recommended.

Along with balanced diet it is also essential to introduce regular exercising into your daily routine. Adults are often recommended to exercise for about 30 minutes for at least five times a week.

What About The Recovery Time?

Once you undergo the surgery, it may take few weeks for you to get recovered completely. However you are allowed to go home within 4-7 days after surgery.

A physiotherapist may recommend you some of the neck exercises that can help you out in recovering faster after the operation. You may also be advised for not bending your neck regularly and to use special type of neck support pillow which can help the healing faster.

When you are leaving your hospital you may be asked to return after 6-12 weeks to check for any problems you may have after getting the operation.

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