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What is Cervical Osteoarthritis?

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  • Written By: Nat Robinson
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 09 November 2018
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Cervical osteoarthritis is a medical condition used to explain significant wearing out of discs, joints and bones in the neck. This condition is also known as cervical spondylosis and cervical spine osteoarthritis. Typically, as people age their bones, joints and cartilage will begin to wear down. This is a naturally occurring process, however, the changes can greatly affect the body. For instance, the joints may begin to lose elasticity and become stiff. Although, any person can get cervical osteoarthritis, it usually affects middle aged individuals and senior citizens.

Age progression is, on average, the cause of cervical osteoarthritis. For this reason, it tends to affect older individuals more often. There can be some additional factors that may predispose a person to develop this condition as well. A previous surgery on the spine, for example, may set a person up for early deteriorating of cervical disks. In addition, an existing case of arthritis and an injury to the neck or back may cause this condition to develop.

For many people with cervical osteoarthritis, chronic neck pain may be the most troublesome symptom. The neck may become tender and stiff, especially in the mornings. There can also be sensations of numbness, tingling and weakness in other parts of the body, such as the shoulders, upper chest and arms. Sometimes these cervical osteoarthritis symptoms may extend down into the lower extremities.

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Other symptoms of this type of osteoarthritis may include a headache and the inability to coordinate. Some people may have a hard time maintaining their balance and this can make walking particularly difficult. Although, it is not very common, it is possible to hear a noise upon turning the neck in certain directions with this condition. If the wear and tear extends down into the spinal cord, an individual may start to experience more severe symptoms. This may include losing the ability to control the bladder and bowels.

A spinal x-ray may be enough to diagnose cervical osteoarthritis. Some individuals may be sent for a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or another routine diagnostic imaging scan such as a computerized tomography (CT) scan. A myelogram may also be performed. With this test, a special contrast dye is used to highlight the spine. X-rays are taken to trace the dye, which can help doctors pinpoint abnormalities more accurately.

Most people will benefit from noninvasive cervical osteoarthritis treatment. To treat the symptoms of this condition, doctors frequently prescribe a variety of pain and anti-inflammatory medications. Certain individuals may also be advised to see a physical therapist to maintain a normal amount of strength in the neck. For severe cases, surgery may be recommended. Surgery for this condition may involve removing or realigning severely deteriorated discs in the neck.

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