Understanding When Neck Pain Is Injury, and When It Is Arthritis

When you wake up with neck pain or find yourself wincing every time you try to turn your head, or look up or down, you generally assume that you slept in a bad position, or perhaps you strained a muscle while doing some kind of exercise or job. But if the pain remains consistent and doesn’t go away after a few days, it may be time to consider that what you’re dealing with is actually arthritis of the neck, or cervical spondylosis as it is called by medical professionals.

Cervical spondylosis is likely to happen to everybody eventually. Years of holding up the equivalent of a 10-pound weight on top of your neck is bound to take a toll, and joints and disks begin to deteriorate in the face of constant stress. The disks in our necks are durable, but time does have an impact. Most people start to have disk degeneration by the time they are 60 years old.  The most common symptom is pain, though not everybody will actually feel it, and diagnostic imaging often reveals greater damage than was originally suspected.

The good news is that for people whose neck arthritis actually does cause pain, it is usually short lived and treatable. People tend to feel better within two or three months of their first symptom appearing. Unfortunately, there are some people for whom spondylosis causes significant pain from a narrowing of where the nerve roots exit the spine. Also known as a pinched nerve, the result is pain radiating down the arm, or numbness in the hand.  Truly serious instances of spondylosis can lead to loss of bladder and bowel control.

If you are experiencing neck pain that you think might be caused by arthritis, your best bet is to start with a conservative approach including rest and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. If the pain persists for more than a week or two, seeking an appointment with our cervical spine specialist in New Jersey would be a good idea. After a careful examination and review of your symptoms and personal history, we may prescribe a different medication, or introduce other therapies including physical therapy or massage. We may also offer a steroid injection designed to minimize inflammation in the affected area to provide you with relief.

If your pain persists and these conservative approaches have not helped, the next step may be minimally invasive surgical procedures designed to relieve your discomfort. Depending upon whether your specific situation is arising from a pinched nerve, a herniated disc or some other physical problem, our cervical spine specialist in New Jersey will recommend the procedure best suited to your condition. Options may include a discectomy, in which a damaged disk is removed and vertebrae fused together to provide stability, or possibly a posterior foraminotomy, which widens the opening of the spine that is compressing the nerve.

Whatever approach is best for your particular condition, the road to relief begins with making an appointment for diagnosis.

Contact us today to find a convenient time to come in and see us.

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