Neck and back pain can make daily activities unbearable and can be very difficult to diagnose and treat. Many people don’t consider the neck and back when they think about joint pain, but the spine has many joints.
The spine begins at the base of the skull and is made up of 24 bones and seven small vertebrae.1 The joints between the vertebrae are called facets.2 Discs of cartilage in the facet joints stabilize and support the vertebrae while keeping the spine mobile.
The cartilage in these facet joints can deteriorate with age, discs can slip, and bone spurs grow to adapt to deteriorating cartilage. All of these things can result in severe pain, stiffness, and nerve pressure in the back and neck.
Arthritis in Back
Pain in the back can be due to osteoarthritis of the spine, which is marked by the breakdown of the cartilage of the discs and joints in this region.4,5,7 When suffering from osteoarthritis, one may experience bone spurs that put pressure on the nerves of the spinal column.3 Since the spine is connected to all other parts of the body, this may even cause pain or weakness radiating down through the legs. However, one may be able to alleviate some of the back pain by lying down when it worsens.
Arthritis in Neck
Arthritis of the neck is often categorized as cervical osteoarthritis and is marked by pain that radiates between the shoulders.6,7,8,9 Other neck arthritis symptoms include stiffness first thing in the morning and pain that gets worse again at the end of the day. Like arthritis in the back, another common marker of arthritis in the neck is bone spurs that pinch nerves and move pain down into the arms.
Early Warning Signs of Arthritis in the Back and Neck
It’s especially important to pay attention to the early warning signs of arthritis when feeling unexplained pain and stiffness in the back or neck. Here are some of the early back and neck arthritis symptoms to look out for.10
- Sharp pain when moving the affected joint
- Tenderness when pressing down on a joint
- Inability to move the neck
- Grinding sound with neck movement
- Muscle spasms in the neck and shoulders
Treatment for Back and Neck Arthritis Symptoms
One of the best ways to alleviate the pain associated with neck and back arthritis is to simply rest when the pain strikes.7,10 Physicians may also recommend topical creams, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or muscle relaxants. Chiropractic adjustments and physical therapy sessions that include neck and back exercises to strengthen these regions and increase a range of motion can also help subdue the pain associated with arthritis.
Pain relieving topical creams, like JointFlex, can be massaged into the neck and back to provide immediate, lasting symptom relief. Heat or ice is yet another way to alleviate localized pain. Finally, when practiced regularly, chest stretches and exercises to improve posture may also help to alleviate back and neck pain.
REFERENCES for ARTHRITIS PAIN in the BACK AND NECK
1. Vertebral column. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved October 25, 2018 from https://www.britannica.com/science/vertebral-column.
2. Spine basics. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Retrieved October 25, 2018 from https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases–conditions/spine-basics/.
3. Burke, S. (2016 December 7). What are lumbar osteophytes (Bone spurs)? Retrieved October 25, 2018 from https://www.arthritis-health.com/blog/visual-guide-lumbar-osteophytes-bone-spurs.
4. Benoist, M. (2003 October). Natural history of the aging spine. European Spine Journal, 12, S86-S89. Retrieved October 25, 2018 from National Center of Biotechnology Information https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/fibromyalgia.
5. Herniated disk in the lower back. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Retrieved October 25, 2018 from https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases–conditions/herniated-disk-in-the-lower-back/.
6. Gellhorn, A. C., Katz, J. N. & Suri, P. (2013 April). Osteoarthritis of the spine: the facet joints. Nature Reviews Rheumatology, 9, 216–224. Retrieved October 25, 2018 from National Center of Biotechnology Information http://blog.arthritis.org/rheumatoid-arthritis/rheumatoid-arthritis-side-of-fibromyalgia/.
7. Gower, T. Is your back pain caused by OA? Arthritis Foundation. Retrieved October 25, 2018 from https://www.arthritis.org/about-arthritis/types/back-pain/articles/oa-and-back-pain.php.
8. Rubin, M. (2017 January). Cervical spondylosis. The Merck Manual: Consumer Version. Retrieved October 25, 2018 from https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/brain,-spinal-cord,-and-nerve-disorders/spinal-cord-disorders/cervical-spondylosis.
9. Lieberman, D. (2016 October 26). Symptoms of arthritis of the spine. Veritas Health. The Merck Manual. Retrieved October 25, 2018 from https://www.spine-health.com/conditions/arthritis/symptoms-arthritis-spine.
10. Mooney, V. (2005 May 25). Osteoarthritis complete treatment guide. Veritas Health. Retrieved October 25, 2018 from https://www.spine-health.com/conditions/arthritis/osteoarthritis-complete-treatment-guide.
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