Cervical Arthritis (aka Spondylosis)
Cervical arthritis is also known as cervical spondylosis and is caused by degeneration of the the bones, discs, and connective tissues of the neck. The usual cause of this spine condition is simple wear and tear from everyday activities, exacerbated by particular professions or recreational activities, such as construction/manual labor, contact sports, and activities like surfing where heavy weights are carried on the neck and shoulders. Acute trauma, such as whiplash from a car accident or fall from a horse or bike, can also cause damage which then leads to degenerative changes in the anatomy of the neck.
The onset of the disease and symptomolgy is usually around the age of forty. Men are generally affected earlier than women and both sexes are at risk of myelopathy as a result of cervical arthritis. The body may produce osteophytes, also known as bone spurs, in an effort to increase the surface area of the ends of the bones and spread the pressure on the bones over this larger area to reduce stress. Unfortunately this often leads to cervical spinal stenosis, where the spaces in the neck are narrowed causing pinched nerves, compressed blood vessels, inflammation and pain. The osteophytes may aid in keeping a hypermobile joint more stable, but in doing so may reduce mobility to an unhelpful degree. Myelopathy induced weakness, numbness, paraesthesia and problems of incontinence can occur in some individuals.
Diagnosis of cervical arthritis (spondylosis) is usually through x-rays, MRI, and CT scans after symptoms first appear. The diagnosis may be incidental to another line of investigation where a scan takes place of the cervical region. Signs of abnormal bone growth, disc degeneration, and calcification of connective tissues may be apparent on these scans and lead to a diagnosis of cervical arthritis (spondylosis). Some who show signs of cervical spine degeneration may remain asymptomatic but should have regular check ups to ascertain the progression of the condition.
Treatment is likely to consist of a combination of NSAIDs, analgesics, occasionally steroid injections, physical therapy, rest, and neck surgery if indicated. Relief may be obtained from certain devices for cervical spinal health, and postural correction tools. Gentle stretching exercises for the neck may also help relieve some of the discomfort, acute, and chronic pain associated with cervical arthritis.
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