Neck Arthritis Due To Poor Posture, Injury And Related Stress On Joints
Over a period of time, poor neck posture may cause joints to deteriorate, resulting in neck arthritis called osteoarthritis. The sensitive nerves can become pinched. Soft tissues like muscles and ligaments stiffen and become hard and inelastic as they try to assume a more supportive function. Because the joints become unstable the ligaments which attach bones harden and try to act like bones. The muscles used to move bones lose elasticity as they try to function like ligaments. This process will continue and may result in severe pain and even disability.
Everyone suffers some form of arthritis as they age. Normal wear and tear is expected and may not result in pain. As a result of injuries like whiplash, muscle strains, resulting poor injury healing, bad posture resulting in altered biomechanics from poor ergonomics, and pressure from the weight of the head as in forward head posture.
Arthritis of the neck can result in a progression of deterioration. This causes pain from structures like bulging discs and irritated joints of the neck (cervical spine), as a cascading of compressive forces collapses the spine, which forms the foundation of the neck. This process is often called cervical spondylosis and is a common reason for surgery as the spinal cord can be compromised.
This results in nerve & joint irritation; the disc space degenerates, loosing vital fluids and nutrients, joints become sensitive and rub together, muscles and ligaments become stiff resulting in loss of normal range in motion. Spaces where the nerves and the spinal cord sit become narrowed, resulting in stenosis of the cervical spine. All this works to fuse the spine together as the body tries to stabilize the neck. Like a crumbling foundation in a house, cracks can form in the walls and ceiling.
We can keep patching it up, trying to stabilize the cracks that we can see and feel, but the foundation keeps crumbling, even as we try to place cement or nail boards where it is cracking. Unfortunately, this is not a house and the sensitive structures of the neck produce pain and loss of function resulting in disability.
As a Chiropractor, focus is on the foundation, rather than trying to patch things up. Methods like adjustments, exercises and methods to allow proper healing help to correct and maintain mobility and function. In some cases, surgery is the only option, however, there are ways using methods promoted at Neck Solutions that can help.
1) This is a side view of a normal neck without arthritis. Note the jaw (A) in front and the base of the skull in the back. The normal forward curve is present. Note the equal spacing between the individual bones (B). The bones are smooth and regular. Joints are free to glide in a smooth motion (C). The small circles between the bones are openings for nerves which come off the spinal cord which are clear and unobstructed (D).
2) Here you can see the beginning of the degenerative process leading to arthritis. The nerves are obstructed and interfered with by rupture of the nerve roots which release toxins that are absorbed into the surrounding tissues.
3) If left to continue, the degeneration progresses; bone spurs form along the margins of the bones. Joint surfaces become rough and irregular. Discs in the neck begin to narrow and show signs of collapse. These are signs of progressive degeneration.
4) Now you can see a great deal of decay is present. There are many sharp bone spurs and the soft tissues begin to decay. Fusion has begun which causes the bones to become irregular blocks of calcium. Nerve roots are being destroyed. This stage is very difficult to treat.
5) As if things couldn’t get worse, the extreme stage of arthritis.
Help For Neck Arthritis
A chiropractor can help determine what stage your neck is in and the best methods to treat it. Adjustments or mobilizations are important along with things you can do at home like cervical spine traction, heat therapy, restorative exercises, corrective pillows, quality joint health supplements, topical pain relief and posture correction.
There are different types of arthritis. In this article, we have discussed what is usually termed osteoarthritis, where osteo means bone and is a general description. Some cases of spinal arthritis exhibit rapid & painful degeneration, which may indicate a type of low grade infection. Another type of arthritis is part of the rheumatoid neck disorders called rheumatoid neck arthritis. Regardless, it is always important to consult with your health care professional regarding any type arthritis.
- According to a 2019 review in Current Opinion in Rheumatology, osteoarthritis is a leading cause of disability and can negatively impact physical and mental well being. Healthcare costs and resources for managing the disease are substantial. Evidence indicates different phenotypes, reflecting various mechanisms of the disease. There are many person level risk factors, including sociodemographic characteristics (e.g., race and gender), genetic as well as diet-related factors and others, including specific bone and joint shapes, muscle weakness, joint misalignment, and joint injury.
- A 2021 study in Pain Practice indicates standard cervical spine X-rays are a reproducible method to demonstrate degenerative abnormalities of the neck. Disc height loss showed substantial agreement with the actual disc height measurements on CT-scan.
- A 2019 study in the Spine Journal found immobilization traction interrupts the cycle of disc degeneration with 2 to 6 weeks as a sensitive period for regeneration of the disc.