Arthritis, at the most basic level of explanation, is the infliction of joint pain due to degeneration. Nearly 40 million Americans suffer from arthritis. Over time, joints in various parts of the body may begin to lose their fluidity, causing swelling, pain and stiffness. At Minimally Invasive Surgical Institute, we see many cases of arthritis throughout the spine, particularly in the neck.
What Is Arthritis in the Neck?
The cervical spine, more commonly referred to as the neck, is made up of seven vertebrae. Along each vertebra are two facet joints, one on each side, which enables flexibility and motion of the neck. What keeps the facet joints in control of the neck’s flexibility lies within its foundation of cartilage and fluid encasement. Because facet joints are made of these materials, they keep the bones from rubbing together. However, the facet joints can deteriorate over time in the cervical spine, where the cartilage that lines the joints begins to thin. Without the protective cartilage and fluid of the facet joints, the bones in the cervical spine will begin to rub together. Beyond this, the friction can cause bone spurs to grow, which is a common indicator of arthritis in the neck.
What Causes Arthritis?
Overall, arthritis is typically caused by nothing more than degeneration of the joints over time. While injury or infection may accelerate the natural deterioration of cartilage tissue in the joints, arthritis is a condition most people will experience by the time they reach a certain age. As we get older, our bodies naturally begin to show some signs of wear and tear. It’s quite common to develop arthritis in the neck, although the symptoms can be painful and difficult to live with.
Arthritis Symptoms in the Neck
Symptoms of arthritis in the neck may range from mild to severe in nature, and the symptoms themselves may even come and go. Generally speaking, arthritis in the cervical spine results in symptoms of pain and stiffness in the neck, upper back and shoulders. This pain may radiate up toward the back of the head and cause headaches as well. Like most cases of arthritis, many people experience swelling and tenderness at the site of the afflicted joints. These symptoms are typically most severe in the morning and at night.
Who’s at Risk for Arthritis?
Most people will eventually experience some sort of arthritis. However, some individuals may be predisposed to this condition. Some common risk factors include a family history of arthritis, a previous joint injury and even obesity. Otherwise, age is the greatest risk factor for developing arthritis in any joint within the body.
The MISI Approach to Treating Arthritis in the Neck
At Minimally Invasive Surgical Institute, we have a long list of treatment options that alleviate arthritis pain in the cervical spine. From offering physical to finding the right medication for you, MISI has the alternative solutions to make living with your arthritis a bit easier.
If, however, arthritis leads to bone spur or a facet joint instability, surgical intervention may be needed. For more information about MISI’s approach to minimally invasive arthritis treatments for the neck, visit our treatment page here.
Dr. Bryce Benbow has either authored or reviewed and approved this content.