Cervical spondylosis is a term that refers to arthritis of the neck. It is usually connected to age-related changes. As we age, wear-and-tear affects the spinal discs in your neck making them dehydrated and less flexible. This is a common occurrence and affects more than 85% of people older than the age 60. Additionally, at age 40, our discs naturally begin to dry out and shrink. This causes reduced cushioning between the vertebrae. Herniated/bulging discs can also cause this condition. Having stiff ligaments is another cause of cervical spondylosis or neck arthritis; ligaments can naturally stiffen with age.
Risk factors for cervical spondylosis include:
- Having a previous neck injury
- Being over 60 years old
- Certain occupations that involve repetitive neck movements, lots of overhead work, or that place the neck in an awkward position other than neutral.
If you think that you have neck arthritis, there are certain symptoms you should look out for like neck pain, having neck stiffness, being dizzy, having neck muscle spasms, having soreness in the neck. More serious symptoms may include a sudden loss of bowel and bladder control, and sudden numbness or weakness. If you notice any of these severe symptoms, you should immediately seek medical attention.
If you are diagnosed with neck arthritis, treatment can include the use of medications like NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), muscle relaxers, epilepsy medicine, and anti-depressants. Treatment can also include the use of corticosteroids like prednisone or injections. Surgery can be required in extreme cases; however, conservative measures like physiotherapy can be effective and mitigate the need for surgery.
Physiotherapy may include a combination of exercises that stretch and strengthen the neck, pain-relieving modalities, patient education on ways to stop the pain and on correct posture, cervical traction and manual therapies.
Prevention of neck arthritis, however, tends to be the best way to prevent pain. Here are 5 ways you can stop or slow down cervical spondylosis, or neck arthritis, today:
- Try to always practice/have good posture. Always keep your chin parallel to the ground. Also, be sure to always keep your neck neutral. If you use the phone a lot for work and end up having to take notes at the same time, try to use a headset to avoid having your neck in an awkward position. When laying down at night, try to sleep on your back or your side and not on your stomach. You can also try out a contour pillow to see if it works for you.
- Have a good workstation setup. Don’t use several computer screens, especially if one must be positioned to the left or right of you. You should always try to have the screen directly in front of you and at eye level.
- Get an office chair with head and neck support. Your neck needs support just like your back does. So, you should try to get an ergonomic chair that supports the curves in your neck and head.
- Aim to strengthen your shoulders. Your shoulders are the foundation for your head and neck. Like every house needs a good foundation so does your neck. So, by strengthening your shoulders you will make your neck less prone to injury and symptoms of arthritis.
- Lastly, you should eat a good diet. Good nutrition will support the structures in your neck and make it less likely for them to dry out. Or it will stop them from drying out as quickly.
You can take these steps to stop neck arthritis in its tracks! We must always prioritize our health because it allows us to live healthy and fulfilling lives. No one wants to be in constant pain so by doing these steps, you can increase your chances of a life with less aches and pains.