Neck pain can be a result of arthritis and spinal degeneration so what can you do to ward off the effects of wear and tear on the spine? Or, if you have already accumulated that wear and tear, how can you give your body the best shot at repairing the damage and possibly even reversing spinal arthritis to relieve neck pain?
Arthritis is a term coined for joint disease or, more specifically inflammation (itis) of the joint (arthron, from the Greek). That spinal arthritis is connected to inflammation might give you some clues as to how best to prevent the condition as well as what to do to reduce the majority of the pain and suffering that arthritis can cause. There are a number of strategies for lowering inflammatory processes, but with neck pain it can pay to pay attention to both local and systemic processes.
Inflammatory Conditions and Triggers
Things that increase localized inflammation include acute and chronic trauma, such as persistent or severe knocks to the neck and spine, as well as certain disease conditions like diabetes. Other triggers for inflammation and conditions associated with chronic inflammation include:
- Autoimmune disease
- Food allergies
- Food intolerances
- Environmental allergens
- Chronic peptic ulcer
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Chronic periodontitis
- Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease
- Chronic sinusitis
- Chronic active hepatitis
Some Inflammation is Necessary!
The trouble with inflammation is that it is actually a necessary and natural part of healing, so prematurely reducing an inflammatory reaction to injury can impair the proper response to trauma and even prevent wounds from ever properly closing. Muscle inflammation is an example of this, with many sports physiotherapists now recognising that acute inflammation can help muscle healing and that immediate treatment with ice and anti-inflammatory drugs may delay healing and recovery. The trick, then, is determining just how long to let normal inflammatory processes go unchecked and when persistent inflammation is problematic.
Chronic Inflammation Effects
Certainly, inflammation and swelling that continues over weeks, months, even years is abnormal and needs attention. Chronic inflammatory conditions affect how the body works at a cellular level, making metabolic processes less efficient, producing more toxic metabolites, and prompting abnormal growth of some cell and tissue types. Arthritis may cause neck pain through such processes by way of the development of bone spurs as bone is broken down and rebuilt in an undesirable fashion. Callouses and bony growths can result from wear and tear that then impinge upon nerves. Pinched nerves in the neck may then cause neck pain as well as symptoms of radiculopathy such as shooting pains or pins and needles in the hands.
Removing Triggers for Inflammation
Some basic steps to take to lower the number of inflammatory triggers contributing to spinal degeneration, arthritis and neck pain include reducing or eliminating alcohol consumption, eating a high fibre, low glycaemic index diet, reducing consumption of animal based foods and thus lowering levels of saturated fats, hormone-disrupting chemicals, and triggers for inflammatory prostaglandin synthesis, and also trying to reduce daily stress.
Reducing Inflammation in Chronic Neck Pain
Practicing guided meditation or having cognitive behavioral therapy can help in chronic pain conditions, and it is vital to stay hydrated and eat a diet rich in anti-inflammatory substances. Many phytochemicals have anti-inflammatory actions, including things such as anthocyanins from blueberries, and other carotenoids and beneficial compounds found in broccoli, avocado, bok choi, garlic, ginger, onions, cabbage, yams, carrots, peppers, kale, and acerola cherries. There are many more anti-inflammatory foods that can help in cases of chronic inflammation, spinal degeneration, arthritis and neck pain so make sure you’re reducing your triggers for inflammation and nourishing your body.