Cervical Arthritis Causes
Chronic degeneration exacerbated by acute trauma is the most likely aggravator of cervical arthritis causes. There is a genetic aspect to the disease, with some predisposed to problems of the cervical spine through congenitally narrow spinal structures more readily affected by degeneration and, therefore, increasingly likely to lead to compression of the nerves and blood vessels found therein. Age-induced thickening of the ligaments and connective tissues of the cervical spine also serve to narrow the available space through which nerves and blood vessels travel, causing ischaemia, and pinched nerves in the neck (and back), inflammation, cell death, and pain.
Who Gets Cervical Arthritis?
Professional gymnasts, dancers, and surfers have an increased likelihood of cervical arthritis (spondylosis), along with manual laborers, as they have a higher degree of stress and strain placed on the head and neck throughout life. Maintaining a healthy posture and strong neck and back muscles may ameliorate some of this damage, along with appropriate rest and prompt treatment on any sudden trauma. Contact sports play a role in the development of cervical arthritis as repeated minor, or major, trauma to the neck, head, and spine can lead to progressive damage of the tissues and structures of the cervical region.
Other lifestyle factors, such as smoking, poor nutrition, and certain medications may exacerbate other causes of cervical arthritis. Bones may be softened/decalcified by the excessive use of antacids, including the proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) Prilosec, Prevacid, and Nexium. A recent study by Gray, et al (2010), found that women who regularly used PPIs for 8yrs had a 25% higher chance of low bone density and increased risk of fracture. If the bones in the cervical spine are low in calcium then they will be more likely to crumble under pressure and to have osteophyte growth with calcification of the soft tissues in the neck. These effects will increase the risk of cervical arthritis and susceptibility to acute trauma complications.
A further risk involves excessive segmental motion, from atlantoaxial instability. This frequently occurs in those with Down Syndrome; around 15% of Down Syndrome patients suffer from this at some point in their lives (Pueschel, 1987). Down Syndrome sufferers were found to have a 36% incidence of cervical spondylosis in a study of forty-four patients over 15yrs old with the condition developing much sooner in this patient population than the general populace with a concomitant increase in risk of trauma to the spinal cord (Ali, 2006). Increased segmental motion also occurs in those with cerebral palsy, and in autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.
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