Most individuals who experience a sudden stiffness in the neck or pain when they move their head attribute these symptoms to sleeping awkwardly, jerking their neck suddenly, and the likes. Very few even consider the possibility of cervical spondylosis which is the medical term for arthritis of the neck. Although the condition is more common in people over the age of 60, there are some rare cases wherein younger individuals are diagnosed with neck arthritis.
Like other types of arthritis, cervical spondylosis is a result of joints and disks degenerating in the neck over a long period of time which is why the condition tends to develop at a later stage in life. Injuries to the neck can also be a cause, however, this is rare. The tricky part is that there aren’t always symptoms related to arthritis of the neck; therefore, anyone over the age of 60 may have already developed this degenerative neck condition but is yet to experience a single symptom. In other cases, one might experience a combination of symptoms that are fairly obvious indications of cervical spondylosis.
Common Symptoms of Neck Arthritis
While you may have one or more obvious symptoms of neck arthritis, sometimes, the patient will not experience anything more than neck stiffness and/or mild pain, especially when there have been minimal movements in the neck for a long period of time. Working on a computer, driving, reading, and other such activities can all cause pain and stiffness, as well as prolonged periods of staring up or down.
Here are some of the most common symptoms of cervical spondylosis:
- Unsteadiness when walking or loss of balance
- Neck movements accompanied by grinding sensations/noises
- Weakness in the arms and legs
- Neck and shoulder muscle spasms
Along with the symptoms of neck arthritis mentioned above, one may experience myelopathy and radiculopathy. These are briefly explained below.
- Myelopathy: When the spinal cord is affected by cervical spondylosis, myelopathy disease occurs. Some symptoms related to the disease include numbness in the area, feeling weakness in the body, mild to severe pain, and electrical sensations when moving the head.
- Radiculopathy: The symptoms of radiculopathy are very similar to myelopathy, however, it is a different condition wherein the spinal nerve root is being compressed or experiencing pressure.
Different Types of Arthritis of the Neck
Patients who experience neck pain for weeks or months may be suffering from one of the different types of arthritis that affect the neck. Even if the symptoms are as mild as on and off stiffness, if there are no improvements after a significant amount of time, it is advisable to seek chiropractic treatment.
Here are some common types of cervical spondylosis.
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Cervical osteoarthritis
- Psoriatic arthritis
- Ankylosing spondylitis
Depending on your diagnosis, the healthcare professional will advise appropriate treatment.
How Chiropractic Care Can Help Cervical Spondylosis
Spinal manipulation can help relieve pain in multiple areas/joints in the body. As far as arthritis of the neck is concerned, your chiropractor will identify problem areas and provide chiropractic treatment to achieve the following results:
- Improved muscle balance
- Decreased nerve compression and irritation
- Better alignment
- Improved joint mobility
- Relief from pain and stiffness
Patients with cervical spondylosis will receive chiropractic mobilisation, or chiropractic adjustments also known as spinal manipulation. The former is a gentler approach involving low-velocity treatment in the form of gradual stretching of the joints and muscles; the latter, on the other hand, is a combination of high-velocity techniques which include rapid rotations and side bending of the patient’s neck and/or head. In many cases, chiropractic mobilisation is used to treat neck arthritis because patients are not comfortable with high-velocity treatment, or due to spinal instability which cannot handle chiropractic adjustments.
Here’s a look at some low-velocity chiropractic techniques used to treat arthritis of the neck.
Cervical Manual Traction
During the treatment, your chiropractor will manually stretch your cervical spine by gently and carefully pulling your neck upward (parallel to your spine). You can be in a sleeping or upright sitting position for this. The treatment continues using different angles while stretching the cervical spine to relieve pain and stiffness.
This aims at increasing motion between the cervical vertebrae which is experiencing restriction due to fixations. Your chiropractor will gently stretch and move the neck vertebrae from one side to the other, backward and forward, while also performing head rotations in a figure 8 motion. In doing so (at various angles), otherwise limited movement between the spinal segments located in the neck will be increased.
Other Cervical Techniques/Treatment
Some types of chiropractic care for neck arthritis require special tables that facilitate the treatment. One such technique includes the use of a drop table wherein the headrest of the table will drop suddenly as opposed to manually thrusting the head. During this type of treatment, the chiropractor applies pressure to the problem area, moving in the direction of the headrest; upon reaching this point, the headrest will drop (just a few inches). These techniques are intended to improve motion between each segment of the neck vertebra.
If treated properly, cervical spondylosis needn’t be a reason to stop going on with your normal, everyday life. At MSK Therapy, our licensed and experienced chiropractors are here to help patients relieve neck pain, stiffness, and discomfort with professionally-approved techniques and treatments for arthritis of the neck. Reach out to us today for a consultation or check-up with one of our chiropractic care experts.