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  • 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 and 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




  • 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
  • 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

  • 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

  • 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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