WHAT IS IT? NECK OSTEOARTHRITIS

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a common degenerative process affecting the neck.  Degeneration can affect the discs and joints, resulting in reduced disc height, increased bone growth, and sometimes the formation of osteophytes.

In severe cases, the space in which the nerves and spinal cord pass can become encroached, resulting in nerve compression or stenosis.

Signs & Symptoms

  • Pain in the neck (worse in the morning, in cold weather, before it rains, and after exercise

  • Reduced neck range of movement

  • Aggravated by neck extension, and at the extreme range of neck movements

  • Limited ability to carry out normal preferred activities

  • Possible referred pain to the shoulders, shoulder blades, and down arm

  • Possible sensory disturbances such as pins and needles or numbness

  • Eased with heat and lying down

What Causes It?

  • Age related degeneration increased by:

  • Weak deep neck flexor, lower trapezius and other relevant muscles

  • Increased lordosis of neck (chin poking position)

  • Forward head posture

  • Protracted or rounded shoulders

  • History of postural neck pain

  • Long standing incorrect work station set up (computer, chair, table)

  • Activities involving repetition, or sustained postures

  • History of hypomobile vertebrae and joints

How to Self Manage

  • Keep your neck moving (pain free range)

  • Reduce high impact exercise, but maintain flexibility and strength

  • Use heat and rest to reduce pain

  • See your pharmacist for advice on joint supplements

  • Seek assessment of your neck by your physiotherapist

  • Consider requesting an x-ray referral from your GP for confirmation of diagniosis

Prognosis

  • Conservative management should be enough to manage mild to moderate arthritis

  • Once pain becomes constant and severe, and life activities are significantly impeded then specialist intervention may be required

How Physio Helps

  • Assess your neck to confirm if OA is likely

  • Refer for an investigation (x-ray) if necessary

  • Prescribe an individual specific exercise program to gain as much range as possible

  • Address any biomechanical contributing factors

  • Correct any muscular weaknesses or imbalances

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