Neck pain and lower back pain is very common and is a result of many things quite often associated with getting older. The bones that make up the spine like the rest of the body slowly degenerate, as we get older. This frequently leads to arthritis. Cervical spondylosis is the degeneration of the joints in the neck and becomes ever more common as people age. More than 85% of people over age 60 are affected.
Causes of arthritis
Arthritis in the spine can develop as the disc degenerates and loses water content. In children and young adults, discs have high water content and as we get older, our discs start to dehydrate and weaken. This condition causes settling, or collapse, of the disc spaces and decrease of disc space height. As the facet joints (smaller joints at the back of the spine) experience increased pressure, they also start to degenerate and develop arthritis and the cartilage that covers and protects the joints wears away. When the cartilage wears away completely, it results in bone rubbing on bone. To make up for this, your body may respond by forming new bone in your facet joints to help support the vertebrae. Eventually, this bone overgrowth – called spurs – may narrow the canal for the nerves to exit the spine (stenosis).
Risk factors for arthritis
The following have all been linked to higher risks of neck pain and spondylosis:
• Genetics – family history of neck pain
• Smoking – linked to increased neck pain
• Occupation – jobs that involve lots of neck motion and overhead work
• Mental health issues – depression/anxiety
• Injuries/trauma – car accident or on-the-job injury
Symptoms of arthritis
• Neck and lower back pain and stiffness worse with activity
• Numbness and weakness in arms, hands, and fingers or legs.
• Trouble walking, loss of balance, or weakness in hands or legs
• Muscle spasms in neck and shoulders
• Grinding sound/feeling in neck with movement
Treatment for arthritis
• Strengthening and stretching weakened or strained muscles is usually the first treatment that is advised.
• Your chiropractor may also use gentle neck traction techniques and joint mobilisations to help restore normal joint mechanics and improve posture.
• Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be helpful in addressing both pain and swelling, and may be prescribed for a number of weeks, depending on the specific problem.
• Careful use of heat, muscle cross-friction and other local therapies can help relieve symptoms.
It is uncommon for those who have only cervical spondylosis and neck pain to be treated with surgery. Surgery is restricted to patients who have severe pain that has not been relieved by other treatment.