What’s the first thing that comes into mind when the word “arthritis” crops up? Creaky joints in the fingers and knees? A debilitatingly painful back? A stiff hip? A throbbing and rigid neck?
Yes, you read that correctly. Arthritis can happen in the neck, and it is prevalent among the elderly, affecting more than 85 percent of persons over the age of 60.
Medically referred to as the cervical spine, the first seven vertebrae of our spinal column or the neck is made up of complex connections of muscles, ligaments, bones and joints. It provides maximum mobility without any protection, making it vulnerable to arthritis, a chronic disease that causes painful and inflamed joints.
In this article, you’ll discover the causes and symptoms of neck arthritis, as well as the natural remedies to treat neck pains caused by this joint disease.
What are the causes of neck arthritis?
The different types of arthritis that target the neck may be triggered by the body’s normal wear and tear process due to aging, as well as problems with the immune system.
Unhealthy lifestyle, bad diet and poor posture, among other factors, further aggravate conditions that trigger arthritis in the neck.
What are the types of arthritis that affect the neck?
Various factors set off these types of discomfort, yet many people with chronic neck pains, accompanied by sore and stiff necks, are diagnosed with a type of arthritis that target the neck, such as the following:
- Neck osteoarthritis – This is a degenerative disease caused by the wearing and tearing of joints, bones and discs in the cervical spine.
Each of the vertebra is cushioned by jelly-like gels that protect the bones from rubbing into each other. When any of these cushions wear out, the vertebrae rub against each other, causing pain and inflammation. The increased friction can also set off the growth of bony projections along the spine called bone spurs.
- Rheumatoid arthritis in the neck – This autoimmune type of arthritis causes the body’s immune system to mess up and attack the lining of the joints by mistake. As a chronic inflammatory disease, it typically starts affecting the smaller joints in the hands and feet, only to spread to the neck over time, as the disease worsens.
Spondyloarthritis in the neck – This tongue twister is a catchall term for inflammatory conditions that affect the joint and entheses, or the areas where tendons and ligaments attach to the bones.
Psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis are not only harder to enunciate, they’re also known in the medical world as the two subtypes of spondyloarthritis in the neck.
As its name suggests, psoriatic arthritis counts psoriasis, an inflammatory skin disease, as one of the accompanying symptoms. Neck pains occur when the joints between the vertebrae are inflamed, and this can cover the neck, lower and upper back.
Ankylosing spondylitis, meanwhile, is an inflammatory disease that targets the bones in your spine and pelvic area, including the joints nearby. This condition causes some of the small vertebral bones to fuse, reducing the spine’s flexibility.
What are the symptoms of neck arthritis?
Because it is predominantly a degenerative disease, most sufferers don’t experience any symptoms in the early stages. Overtime, they develop neck pain and inflammation that can range from mild to severe, as well as neck stiffness.
As the neck stiffens, people affected by neck arthritis may find it hard to move their neck to look up or down, and side to side. Even simple activities that don’t require them to move the neck often, like driving or reading phone messages, may cause discomfort.
These are the common symptoms of neck arthritis:
- A grinding noise that go with your neck movements
- Chronic neck pain
- Difficulties moving the neck
- Joint swelling and stiffness
- Muscle spasms in the neck, sometimes spreading to your shoulders
- Myelopathy symptoms that include compressed spinal nerve roots, pain, numbness and weakness
- Radiculopathy, which affects the spinal nerve root that results in pain, weakness, numbness or electrical sensations down an extremity
What are the best science-backed natural treatments for neck arthritis pain?
Most neck pain goes away in a few days with simple home remedies. If it is caused by a more serious condition such as a cervical degenerative disease, it can aggravate over time, if left untreated.
For mild to moderate pain and discomfort, you may try any or a combination of the following natural treatments and remedies at home:
1. Apply an ice or heat pack – Placing a neck ice pack intermittently for up to 48 hours following the onset of neck pain helps reduce discomfort and swelling.
Switch to a heat pack after three days to relieve tense muscles.
2. Use a neck or cervical pillow – To support your neck and avoid further discomfort, use this multi-purpose cooling cervical pillow while lying down or sleeping.
3. Wear a cervical collar – More popularly known as a neck brace, a cervical collar minimizes movement and pressure on your neck, allowing your muscles to rest while healing from the strain.
4. Perform light exercises – Performing light neck exercises and stretching can reduce pain in the short term and improve muscle flexibility and resilience in the long run.
5. Enjoy a relaxing massage – Apart from neck pain reduction, gentle massages on the cervical spine and shoulder helps improve blood circulation and promotes relaxation and stress relief.
6. Have yourself pricked – By harnessing your body’s natural healing abilities, acupuncture may help control pain in patients with acute and chronic neck pains due to arthritis.
7. Perform yoga stretches – Practicing yoga can help manage chronic pain, according to this review. It’s added benefits also include strengthening your core, reducing stress, promoting relaxation and enhancing posture.
8. Seek the help of a physical therapist – Ask a physical therapist to create a treatment plan and an exercise program for you to improve neck strength and flexibility, as well as to reduce neck discomfort.
9. Go to a chiropractor – This alternative form of therapy looks really scary, but it might just be what you need to reduce neck pain and improve your range of motion, two major symptoms of arthritis in the neck.
10. Consider cognitive behavioral therapy – This form of therapy used to treat various mental health issues is said to be equally effective in reducing the physiological impact of pain.
11. Quit smoking – Besides health reasons, there are few other justifications to kick this unhealthy habit. Smoking interferes with some drug treatment medications, rendering the latter less effective. Puffing nicotine likewise increases pain sensitivity and may worsen arthritis symptoms.
12. Herbal supplements and remedies – A comprehensive study on the efficacy of herbal remedies is yet to be released. However, many people turn to these herbs to manage neck pain caused by arthritis.
- Devil’s claw – This odd-looking therapeutic herb was found to be effective against inflammation and pain, such as cervical osteoarthritis.
- White willow bark – The white willow is taken as a natural alternative for aspirin. It is also said to effectively fight neck pain and inflammation.
- Capsaicin cream – This compound found in chili peppers can temporarily reduce pain. Individuals suffering from neck pain due to osteoarthritis and muscle pain can apply it repetitively on the affected area.
- Menthol and camphor – As major ingredients of many pain-relieving ointments, menthol and camphor not only act as temporary analgesic but they may also improve blood circulation.
- Turmeric – Its powerful anti-inflammatory properties make it a popular herbal product for neck pain relief. Processed into pill, powder and tea forms, it is also said swelling and pain caused by arthritis.
What are the other treatment options for neck arthritis pain?
Book an appointment with your doctor if these home and natural remedies fail to address your symptoms.
Your physician will likely prescribe oral corticosteroids to relieve inflammation, or a steroid injection to reduce swelling and inflammation. As a last resort, surgery may be recommended for severe and chronic neck arthritis pain.
Neck pain caused by arthritis can be disabling if left untreated for a long period of time. It is best to address the symptoms with natural treatments at the onset of pain. To further reduce the recurrence of pain and inflammation, make subtle lifestyle changes, too.
Have you tried these natural remedies? Care to tell us more about your experience? Share it via the comments section or write to us.