Category Archives: Arthritis

Neck Arthritis: Symptoms and Pain Relief

Neck Arthritis Did you know that more than 85% of people have arthritis in their necks after the age of 60?

Neck arthritis, also known as cervical spondylosis, degenerative joint disease, or cervical osteoarthritis, is a result of age-related wear and tear of the cervical spine.

Our cervical spine, the portion of the spine that makes up our neck, is made up of bony vertebra and gelatinous discs. As we age, the cartilage in the cervical spine can begin to degenerate. As the cartilage breaks down, the underlying bone is exposed and can develop rough growths or spurs. These growths result in swelling, stiffness, and pain.

It is not uncommon for people to not experience any symptoms. However, when symptoms do occur, effective treatments are usually nonsurgical.

Symptoms of Neck Arthritis

  • Neck stiffness and pain
  • Numbness or weakness in arms, hands, legs, or feet
  • Radiating pain in shoulders and arms
  • Muscle spasms in the neck
  • Popping, cracking, grinding, or clicking sounds in the neck

Relieving Neck Arthritis Pain

Helpful, nonsurgical treatments include:

  • There are a variety of exercises to help support and improve posture. Specifically, neck exercises help strengthen and stretch the cervical spine. This helps maintain range of motion and prevent neck stiffness.
  • Cold and heat therapy can be used to reduce pain symptoms. Cold therapy can help reduce swelling in inflamed areas of the neck. Heat can help reduce soreness and pain in muscles and joints.
  • Neutral Posture is key. It’s important to properly support and align your spine and neck in neutral posture to help prevent excessive strain and pressure on your spine. Ergonomic workstations, seating supports, and quality mattresses and pillows, can help provide the support and alignment you need to reduce neck pain and strain.
  • Rest when pain is severe.

Always check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise or treatment program. If you are experiencing neck pain, visit your local Relax The Back store to speak with one of our trained specialists who can help you find products to relieve daily pain and discomfort.

Spinal Arthritis

presented-by-spine-universeThere are more than 100 types of arthritis.  The most common type that affects the spine is spondylosis, or simply osteoarthritis.  Inflammatory types of arthritis also can cause joint stiffness and pain.  These include juvenile or adult rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis.  Spinal arthritis can affect the cervical (neck), thoracic (mid-back), and lumbar (low back) spine.

Degenerative disorder
Spondylosis is a degenerative, wear and tear disorder related to growing older.  This type of arthritis affects the spine’s joints; the facet joints.  At the back of each vertebral body is a pair of facet joints.  Like other joints, each facet joint is covered in cartilage to facilitate smooth movement.  Age- and activity-related spinal degeneration contributes to erosion of cartilage.  As cartilage wears away, joints become inflamed, stiff, and painful.

A degenerative cascade of cumulative effects causes osteoarthritis to alter the spine’s structures.  Degeneration at one level can lead to change (deterioration) at another level of the spine.  These changes can create stress and increase wear and tear of the spine’s discs and ligaments.  Many patients with spondylosis also have degenerative disc disease.

Are you at risk?
Similar to other disorders, some risks are controllable and others are not.

Risks you control

  • Balanced diet
  • Body weight; extra weight (obesity) stresses spine structures
  • Do not smoke (tobacco use)
  • Exercise
  • Overuse of joints during work or sports-related activities

Risks beyond your control

  • Age; everyone ages (arthritis is common in people over age 50)
  • Family history of arthritis
  • Gender: women are at higher risk
  • Spine injury, trauma

Talk with your doctor
Sometimes arthritis symptoms flare up, such as during periods of increased activity, illness, or weather changes.  No two patients with osteoarthritis are the same.  Pain that is chronic, severe, and/or progressive is a good indication that you should see your doctor.

Few patients require surgery to treat spondylosis.  Most patients lead full and productive lives and manage osteoarthritis with cold/heat therapy, exercise, medications, spinal injections, and alternative treatment such as acupuncture.

Your doctor may recommend a physical therapy program to improve your posture, increase flexibility, and build strength and endurance.  Biomechanics and ergonomic training is part of an organized program of physical therapy.  Proper posture and movement at rest or during any activity benefits patients with spondylosis.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

presented-by-spine-universeRheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic type of inflammatory arthritis related to an autoimmune disease.  In the spine, it causes inflammation of multiple spinal joints (facet joints) and affects children and adults.  RA is considered a systemic disease because it can affect other parts of the body (eg, eyes).  Although rheumatoid arthritis is a long-lasting (chronic) disease, symptoms may flare up and then not return for a long time period.  Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of inflammatory spinal arthritis.

Although the cause of rheumatoid arthritis is not known, it is thought that something in the environment or infection can trigger the body’s immune system to attack itself.  This attack sets off an inflammatory cascade of problems that destroy cartilage and erode bony joints.

Rheumatoid arthritis and the spine
Pain is the foremost symptom.  If the cervical spine is affected, pain may be felt at the base of the skull, neck, upper back, shoulders, or arms.  In the lumbar spine, low back pain may be accompanied by leg pain.  Other symptoms may include:

  • Headache
  • Stiffness
  • Loss of joint motion
  • Loss of muscle strength
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Difficulty sleeping

Talk with your doctor
If your pain is chronic, severe, or progressive, talk with your doctor.  He will want to know if pain is accompanied by neurological problems such as numbness, tingling sensations, and weakness.

More serious (rare) symptoms, requiring urgent medical care, include difficulty walking, loss of coordination, and bladder or bowel dysfunction.  These symptoms can be caused by pressure on the spinal cord or cauda equina (low back).

A proper diagnosis is important to treatment.  Your doctor will review your medical history, current symptoms and compare it to information collected during a physical and neurological examination.  Special lab tests may be orders to evaluate your rheumatoid factor and immune system function, determine your liver function, measure your blood count, and other information essential to your health.

There are many non-surgical therapies your doctor may recommend to ease the pain and symptoms related to spinal rheumatoid arthritis.

  • Over-the-counter medications: acetaminophen, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Prescription drugs: oral steroids to reduce inflammation, disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and tumor necrosis factor (TNF) alpha inhibitors to reduce prevent joint damage, immune suppressants, pain relievers, and anti-depressants
  • Physical therapy; stretches to increase flexibility, exercise to build muscle
  • Occupational therapy; performing activities of daily living, coping skills
  • Stress management
  • Alternative therapies such as acupuncture

Most patients with spinal RA do not need surgery.  Surgery may be recommended if pain is uncontrollable, neurologic problems develop (nerve root or spinal cord compression), spinal instability, or weakness is severe.