There are seven vertebrae that form the cervical spine in the neck. Cushioning discs lie between the vertebrae that absorb shock and protect the bones from damage. With age, the discs begin to dehydrate and lose height, eventually causing wear and tear on cartilage that covers the articulating surfaces of the bones, especially the joints in the back of the neck that link the vertebrae. This is referred to as cervical spondylosis, or arthritis of the neck. When cervical discs shrink, herniate, or degenerate, they are unable to keep the vertebrae from grinding against each other as the neck moves. This will cause inflammation in the joints. With less space between the vertebrae, there is compression on the surrounding nerves and swelling that often put pressure on the spinal cord.
Because of the gradual nature of this condition, cervical arthritis commonly occurs in individuals 60 years or older. It can also form as a result of spine surgery or traumatic injuries to the spine.
- Neck stiffness and tightness
- Loss of mobility
- Numbness/ tingling and weakness in the arms or hands due to a pinched nerve
- Grinding/ popping in the neck with movement
- Spine surgery
PHYSICAL THERAPY FOR CERVICAL ARTHRITIS
Physical therapy will help return mobility to your spine and decrease muscle spasms in the neck region. Your therapist will use mobilization and gentle traction techniques to improve the range of motion of your neck and decompress the nerves that are affected. Strengthening exercises for the deep neck muscles and spine stabilizers will help support spinal alignment. Physical therapy cannot cure this condition, but may help in delaying the progression of arthritis and prevent reoccurrence of symptoms.