Cervical Spondylosis (Arthritis of the Neck) Overview
Neck pain affects countless individuals living in the Dallas, Frisco and Fort Worth, Texas communities. In many cases, it is caused by age-related wear and tear to the discs in the neck (cervical spine). Cervical spondylosis, also referred to as arthritis of the neck, is the general term used by many spine specialists to describe progressive degenerative changes to the neck that can cause discomfort. The Texas Sports Medicine team is available to diagnose and treat this common spine condition so individuals can return to their daily and athletic activities with zero symptoms.
What is Cervical Spondylosis?
The human spine is composed of 24 hard bones, known as vertebra, that stack one on top of another to create a canal that is responsible for protecting the spinal cord. The seven small vertebrae that begin at the base of the skull and form the neck are known as the cervical spine.
Cervical spondylosis occurs in the seven small vertebrae that form the neck region of the spine. This condition is quite common and is reported to affect more than 85% of individuals over the age of 60 years. Arthritis of the neck occurs from degenerative changes in the spine related to normal age-related wear and tear.
As the discs in the cervical spine age, they lose height and begin to bulge, as well as lose important water content that keeps them healthy. When the facet joints begin to experience additional pressure from the bulging discs, the protective cartilage that covers the joints wears away and arthritis develops. In certain individuals, the cartilage may wear away completely. With no cartilage, bone rubs against bone and bone spurs develop as a natural protective mechanism of the body.
Arthritis of the Neck Symptoms
In many people, cervical spondylosis causes no symptoms. As the condition progresses, symptoms may develop and include:
- Neck pain and stiffness
- Muscle spasms in the neck and shoulders
- A grinding or popping sensation as the neck turns
- Weakness in the hands or legs
- Loss of balance and difficulty walking
Arthritis of the Neck Treatment
Many patients suffering from cervical spondylosis experience alleviated symptoms with nonoperative measures.
- Physical therapy
- Specific exercises designed to relieve pain by stretching and strengthening strained and weakened muscles
- A combination of acetaminophen, NSAIDs and muscle relaxants are used to alleviate symptoms
- Ice and heat therapy
- Careful usage of ice and heat compresses several times each day
- A cervical epidural block, cervical facet joint block or medial branch block may be performed to inject a steroid and anesthetic combination
- Regenerative Medicine formulations
- Platelet Rich Plasma injections
- Bone Marrow Aspirate Concentration a.k.a. “Stem Cell” injections
Operative treatment is usually reserved for patients who did not respond well to conservative treatment, as well as those with a pinched spinal nerve or those who have compression of the spinal cord.
- Surgical technique: The protruding part of the damaged disc is removed so the nerve root pressure is alleviated.
- Cervical fusion
- Surgical technique: The injured spinal disc is removed and the adjacent vertebrae are fused together with metal hardware.
- Disc replacement
- Surgical technique: The damaged spinal disc is removed and an artificial disc is implanted in the space between the vertebrae.
Recovery after operative treatment for arthritis of the neck varies depending on the surgical technique performed. The spine specialists at Texas Sports Medicine will prescribe detailed rehabilitation protocols to all patients prior to surgery.
For more information on cervical spondylosis, or to discuss treatment options for arthritis of the neck, please contact the Dallas, Frisco and Fort Worth, Texas area spine specialists at Texas Sports Medicine.