Types of pain
Neck / Shoulder / Arm pain
ARTHRITIS OF THE CERVICAL SPINE
Arthritis is a common condition that affects about 1 in every 5 U.S. adults.1 It refers to inflammation of the joints, which are the points that connect your bones and allow movement. There are many types of arthritis, and arthritis of the cervical spine is one of them. It is also referred to as cervical spondylosis, cervical osteoarthritis and neck arthritis.
Arthritis of the cervical spine affects a specific type of joint that is found in the spine. These joints are called facet joints, and they make it possible for you to bend your back and twist from side to side. Over time, similar to other joints in the body, facet joints can get damaged (due to normal wear-and-tear or injury, or as a result of separate medical condition) and develop arthritis.
Your chances of developing cervical spine arthritis increase with age. Approximately 9 in 10 adults over the age of 65 have some sort of cervical spondylosis.2 However, many people never experience any symptoms.
Symptoms of neck arthritis may include:
- Pain around the shoulder blade, along the arm and/or in the fingers
- Muscle spasms in the neck and shoulders
- Stiffness in the neck
- Pain that gets worse when standing or sitting for too long, tilting the head back, sneezing, or coughing
- Muscle weakness that makes it hard to lift the arms or hold objects firmly
The following symptoms may also occur, but are less common: tingling or numbness in the shoulder, arms or legs; loss of balance; and urinary incontinence (loss of bladder control). If you experience any of these, seek medical attention as soon as possible.
DIAGNOSING CERVICAL SPONDYLOSIS
During the medical examination, your doctor will ask questions about your symptoms and may also perform quick tests to check your muscle strength, reflexes, range of motion and how you walk.
If cervical spine arthritis is suspected, imaging and/or nerve function tests may be ordered. This can include an X-ray, CT scan, MRI, myelogram, and electromyography (EMG). A medial branch nerve block may also be used to determine whether a facet joint is causing your pain.
DIAGNOSING CERVICAL SPONDYLOSIS
Treatment for arthritis of the cervical spine is aimed at providing pain relief, decreasing the risk of permanent damage, and helping individuals maintain their normal life. Over-the-counter drugs are usually the first option, but prescription medications may be prescribed if those don’t work.
Physical therapy is another non-surgical treatment option that may help with cervical arthritis, as it helps strengthen the muscles in the neck and shoulders.
For pain relief, your doctor may recommend a medial branch nerve block procedure. This minimally invasive procedure is a way of managing chronic cervical arthritis pain without surgery. Additionally, if this modality is effective, the patient may be able to eliminate their pain for greater than a year at a time. It is rarely necessary to perform surgery for arthritis of the cervical spine.
If you think you might have arthritis of the cervical spine, see a spine and back specialist to get an official diagnosis and a treatment plan tailored to your condition and individual needs. Call (859) 282-2024 to schedule a consultation with one of our double or triple-board certified physicians.
More information coming soon on the following types of pain:
- Cervical Spinal Stenosis
- Frozen Shoulder
- Herniated Discs
- Neck Pain