What is Cervical Osteoarthritis?

Cervical Osteoarthritis, which is also referred to as cervical spondylosis, is a condition involving changes to the bones, discs, and joints of the neck. Like the rest of the body, bones in the neck (cervical spine) progressively degenerate as we grow older. With age, the discs of the cervical spine gradually break down, lose fluid, and become stiffer.

As a result of the degeneration of discs and other cartilage, spurs or abnormal growths called osteophytes may form on the bones in the neck. These abnormal growths can cause narrowing of the interior of the spinal column or in the openings where spinal nerves exit, a related condition called cervical spinal stenosis.

Cervical Osteoarthritis

Symptoms of Cervical Osteoarthritis

The symptoms of cervical spondylosis include:

  • Neck stiffness and pain
  • Headache that may originate in the neck
  • Pain in the shoulder or arms
  • Inability to fully turn the head or bend the neck, sometimes interfering with driving
  • Grinding noise or sensation when the neck is turned

Symptoms of cervical spondylosis tend to improve with rest. Symptoms are most severe in the morning and again at the end of the day. If cervical spondylosis results in pressure on the spinal cord (cervical stenosis), it can put pressure on the spinal cord, a condition called cervical myelopathy. Symptoms of cervical spondylosis with myelopathy include:

  • Tingling, numbness, and/or weakness in the arms, hands, legs, or feet
  • Lack of coordination and difficulty walking
  • Abnormal reflexes
  • Muscle spasms
  • Loss of control over bladder and bowel

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What Causes Cervical Spondylosis?

The cervical spine is made up of seven vertebrae (bones) that are stacked one on top of the other. Between each vertebra is an intervertebral disk, which is cartilage that provides cushioning and allows the surfaces of the bones to move smoothly. These structures allow the spine to move and flex.

Osteoarthritis develops when the cartilage deteriorates or becomes damaged. With less padding between them, the vertebra may begin to rub against each other. This friction also can cause tiny fragments of bone to break off and float in the synovial fluid, causing pain and inflammation.

The main cause of these changes is simple wear-and-tear to the structures of the cervical spine that takes place over time.

Possible Treatments

The primary goal of treatment for cervical osteoarthritis is to relieve pain, prevent nerve compression, and restore function, but there's no one-size-fits-all approach. If you're diagnosed with neck osteoarthritis, your treatment plan will be crafted of components that will specifically target your symptoms and other individual factors.

Depending on what treatment your doctor determines best suited for you, there are a number of potential treatment options for cervical spondylosis. Rest and immobilizing the neck with a cervical collar, medications such as NSAIDs and non-narcotic injections, physical therapy, massage therapy, and surgery.

If you are experiencing symptoms similar to those of cervical osteoarthritis, call (817) 261-8272 to set up an appointment with one of our board-certified spine surgeons.