Cervical arthritis of the spine — overview and treatment

Cervical arthritis of the spine is a common condition among people middle-aged or older. This is because as we age, the parts of the spine begin to break down, leading to degenerative conditions like spinal osteoarthritis.

In addition to the lumbar (lower) spine, the cervical (upper) spine is vulnerable to developing this condition due to the amount of pressure these vertebrae are placed under. The stress of supporting the head while still being flexible enough to bend and twist can accelerate the natural deterioration of spinal anatomy, especially the joint cartilage. As the cartilage that lines the spinal facet joints begins to break down, the increased friction from bone-on-bone contact can cause joint inflammation, which is the primary indicator of arthritis.

Symptoms and treatment for cervical spinal arthritis

If spinal arthritis does develop in the cervical spine, you may experience symptoms of pain, stiffness and discomfort in the neck, as well as pain, numbness and tingling in the arms, shoulders or head due to symptoms traveling along nerve pathways. These symptoms can be seriously disruptive to your everyday life, affecting time with loved ones, your work or the ability to complete simple tasks around the house.

Since this is an age-related condition that isn’t reversible, the typical goal of arthritis treatment is to relieve pain and improve range of motion to help patients engage in everyday activity. Treatment options can include:

  • The use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Exercise, including stretching and light strength training
  • Physical therapy
  • Lifestyle changes, including posture correction and quitting smoking, if necessary
  • Use of ice packs and heating pads
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
  • Bracing of the neck
  • Alternative treatments, such as chiropractic adjustments and acupuncture

When conservative treatments aren’t enough

If chronic spinal arthritis pain persists after several weeks of conservative treatment and you are asked to consider surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute. Our highly skilled surgeons perform minimally invasive spine surgery as a safer and effective alternative to traditional open neck or back procedures.^ By using a muscle-sparing approach that includes the use of a less than 1-inch incision, we are able to perform these procedures on an outpatient basis.

For more information about the advantages of minimally invasive spine surgery at Laser Spine Institute, contact us today. Our spine care team can review your MRI report or CT scan at no cost* and help you determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.