Neck pain is extremely common. It can be caused by many things, and is most often related to getting older.
Like the rest of the body, the bones in the neck (cervical spine) slowly degenerate as we age. This frequently results in arthritis. Arthritis of the neck is called cervical spondylosis.
Cervical spondylosis is the degeneration of the joints in the neck. It becomes increasingly more common as people age. More than 85% of people over age 60 are affected.
Although it is a form of arthritis, cervical spondylosis rarely becomes a crippling or disabling type.
Understanding your spine and how it works can help you better understand cervical spondylosis.
What Causes Neck Arthritis?
Neck Arthritis is caused by chronic wear on the cervical spine. This includes the disks or cushions between the neck vertebrae and the joints between the bones of the cervical spine. There may be abnormal growths or spurs on the bones of the spine (vertebrae).
Over time these changes can press down on (compress) one or more of the nerve roots. In advanced cases, the spinal cord becomes involved. This can affect not just the arms, but the legs as well.
Everyday wear and tear may start these changes. People who are very active at work or in sports may be more likely to have them.
The major risk factor is aging. By age 60, most persons show signs of cervical spondylosis on x-ray. Other factors that can make a person more likely to develop spondylosis are:
- Being overweight and not exercising
- Having a job that requires heavy lifting or a lot of bending and twisting
- Past neck injury (often several years before)
- Past spine surgery
- Ruptured or slipped disk
- Severe arthritis
- Small fractures to the spine from osteoporosis￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼
Dangers of Drugs for Neck Arthritis Treatment
Millions of Australians depend on anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve pain, but the drugs are among the most dangerous on the market. Aside from significantly increasing your heart risks (such as a two to fourfold increase in the risk of heart attacks, stroke or cardiovascular death), NSAIDs are linked to serious gastrointestinal risks like bleeding of the digestive tract, increased blood pressure and kidney problems. Remember, this applies not only to prescription medications like Celebrex but also to over-the-counter drugs like aspirin, Advil and Motrin.
It’s very difficult to find a drug-based method of pain relief that is not saddled with severe side effects. The FDA has even recently limited the amount of acetaminophen allowed in prescription products and added a boxed warning due to liver toxicity concerns. Acetaminophen is actually the leading cause of acute liver failure in the United States.
As for the opioid painkillers like OxyContin, they are among the most commonly abused prescription drugs and are a leading contributor to the rising rates of fatal prescription drug overdoses. Many become addicted after using them to treat conditions like back or neck pain.
But no matter what type of painkiller you choose, the bottom line to remember is that they do not come without risks! Unfortunately, if you visit your conventional doctor with severe neck pain, a long-term treatment plan will typically include a drug-combination approach, using anti-inflammatory drugs, anti-seizure medications, muscle relaxants and possibly other types of pain medication as well. In other words, the answer for pain relief is drugs, drugs and more drugs — each one raising your risk of suffering potentially lethal side effects.
Powerful drugs can numb your nervous system so the pain doesn’t register. While these approaches may be convenient, they can cause adverse effects and kidney or liver damage. Worse, they don’t correct the underlying cause of the headache.
How to Relieve Neck Arthritis Pain Naturally
- Exercise. When your disease isn’t active, get moving — just don’t overdo it. In moderation, it can reduce your pain, help with movement, make you feel less tired, and it’s just a good thing to do for overall health. Your local chapter of the Arthritis Foundation may offer water exercise and other kinds of classes specifically for people with arthritis.
- Ice packs. The next time you need to reduce swelling and pain, go to your freezer and grab a bag of frozen peas or corn — these aids conform easily to the neck area.
- Not smoking. If you smoke, find a way to stop. The chance of complications from RA increases if you smoke, as do your odds of developing osteoporosis.
- Warm baths. Besides helping with sleep, a warm bath can soothe achy joints and relax muscle tension.
- Herbal remedies. If you’re looking for natural relief, turmeric, the common kitchen spice, is known to be an anti-inflammatory and may reduce neck pain caused by inflammation. Boswellia is another natural pain reliever with anti-inflammatory properties.
- Yoga exercise. This ancient practice, which involves stretches, poses, and meditation, is not only a great exercise, but it also relieves stress and neck pain by reducing tension.
- Massage. Have your partner or a professional gently massage your neck where it hurts, for temporary relief.
- ￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼Chiropractic Care: Chiropractic works by opening stuck joints, returning movement to the spine, and removing any nerve impingement that might be happening. If a disc herniation is involved, chiropractic is a natural way to provide a long-term solution. Chiropractic gets to the source of the problem, not just addressing the symptoms but finding the area of dysfunction and returning it normal physiology—in other words, making the area work the way it’s supposed to. When function returns, pain goes away. But mind you, getting rid of pain is not the only name of the game as far as chiropractic is concerned; return to function is the real goal, because when function returns, pain goes away on its own. Pain is nothing more than a warning signal telling you when something is wrong. Shutting off the alarm instead of investigating what is causing the alarm to go off only sets you up for a recurring problem. Once found, the solution can then be applied.