Neck arthritis can be a painful condition that leads to worse arthritis in the neck symptoms if left untreated. Neck arthritis treatment begins with lifestyle changes, but often, treatment needs to include surgery. Treatment for arthritis in the neck begins with prevention when you’re still young, so you learn to take care of your spine and the facet joints in the neck. Your NYC pain management doctor provides this treatment in his Midtown New York City office for your convenience. Our sports injury clinic in NYC is certified and approved and is among the best pain management clinics in New York.
The bones in your neck change as you age. Surfaces become rougher; the discs cushioning the bones become drier; the cartilage breaks down; ligaments holding the bones in place get stiffer; bone spurs can grow; or your spinal column can narrow — all resulting in discomfort or pain and other symptoms that disrupt your daily life.
The vertebrae in your neck are especially susceptible to injury or age-related deterioration due to two factors:
- These bones are balancing your head: a heavy, round skull on a small surface area.
- The area holding the nerves is small. You feel any jarring or wear and tear acutely.
Symptoms of Neck Arthritis
The symptoms of neck arthritis often start gradually. They may or may not worsen over time. Symptoms to watch out for include:
- Chronic pain and stiffness in your neck, worsening with upright activity
- Sound or feeling of popping in your neck when moving
- Involuntary contractions or spasms that cause pain or limitations
- Recurring headaches
- Numbness or weakness in your arms, hands or feet
- Weakness in your legs and difficulty walking
- Flexibility and pain that’s worse in the morning, but improves throughout the day until before deteriorating again at night
- Your neck feels tender when pressed
- Pain and weakness radiate to your shoulder or between shoulder blades
- You experience fatigue and disturbed sleep
- You have difficulty working
These symptoms may subside after several months, or they can become chronic. Arthritis in the neck may revolve specifically around your facet joints in the neck as they degenerate due to osteoarthritis. Your doctor has to determine the cause of your pain.
Facet Joints in the Neck
Your facet joints are the hard, smooth cartilage located at the back of each vertebral bone. These joints enable limited forward and backward movements, as well as a twisting motion. The facet joints are encased in a protective capsule filled with synovial fluid that provides lubrication for smooth movements.
When the joint is healthy, everything works as expected. But as the cartilage breaks down, bone rubs on bone, causing inflammation and pain. This process can take years before the condition becomes painful.
Risk Factors for Arthritis in the Neck
Though anyone can develop neck arthritis, some are more susceptible to experiencing chronic problems. For example:
- Genetics can play a factor if osteoarthritis runs in your family.
- Injury from falls, sports or other traumas can set the stage for long-term problems.
- A job that requires lots of heavy lifting puts more strain on your spine.
- If you’re overweight or obese, you may tend to develop osteoarthritis sooner.
Diagnosis Process for Neck Arthritis
Your NYC sports pain specialist has a variety of methods to diagnose your neck arthritis, including:
- A thorough review of your medical history to include lifestyle, injuries, work environment and methods you’ve used to control the discomfort
- A complete physical exam
- X-rays of the affected area
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Diagnostic injections to determine where pain is located and what tissues are involved
- Electromyography (EMG) to measure electrical activity in your muscles
- Nerve conduction studies to measure how fast nerves are sending signals
- Computed tomography with myelogram (CT scan)
Combining the appropriate tests with your family background and blood work helps your New York pain doctor determine the correct course of treatment for the arthritis in your neck. If you’re hurting, don’t wait to seek treatment.
Arthritis in Neck Treatments
Your treatment options vary. They depend on the severity of your symptoms and the subsequent disruption of your daily life. Your doctor always chooses conservative, non-surgical treatments first, unless there was significant trauma. These options include:
- Rest as symptoms flare-up
- Cold and/or heat therapy
- Over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen, naproxen, acetaminophen or COX-2 inhibitors
- Moderate exercise, such as walking
- Activity modification such as reducing or eliminating triggering behaviors
- Physical therapy
- Prescription medication, such as narcotics or muscle relaxants
- Radiofrequency ablation
- Manual manipulation or chiropractic therapy
- Therapeutic massage
- Water therapy
It’s typical to employ multiple conservative treatments at once for neck arthritis treatment. More aggressive techniques include two types of surgery:
- Anterior cervical discectomy
- Fusion (ACDF) surgery
ACDF involves removing tightened ligaments or herniated discs through an incision in the front of the neck. Fusing the vertebrae together with bone or metal plates and performing a posterior cervical laminectomy involves removal of the disc, ligaments or lamina from the back of your neck.
These options have a high success rate, but as with all surgeries, risks of infection, continued or worsened pain and damage to surrounding tissue are always possible. Recovery time is usually four to six weeks and involves neck braces, medication and physical therapy. Treatment for arthritis in the neck has made huge strides in the past several years. Your Midtown Manhattan pain specialist has access to them all.
Do you have any questions about the arthritis in the neck treatment we offer in NYC? Would you like to schedule an appointment with the best rated neck pain doctor Febin Melepura MD of sports pain management clinic NYC? Please contact our office for consultation with the top pain relief specialist in Midtown Manhattan.