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What can be done for degenerative joint disease in the neck?

Degenerative joint disease sometimes develops in the neck (cervical spine) as the articular cartilage in the spinal facet joints breaks down, allowing the unprotected bone surfaces to grind against each other. The cervical spine is especially vulnerable to the degenerative effects of ongoing wear and tear, mainly because the neck is constantly under stress as it supports the full weight of the head through a wide range of motion.

Nonsurgical treatment options for cervical degenerative joint disease

To address pain and inflammation resulting from degenerative joint disease in the neck, a physician may recommend one or more of the following treatment options:

  • Activity adjustments. The avoidance or modification of certain body positions and movements, such as flexing the neck forward while viewing a computer screen, can potentially improve painful symptoms. In general, positive lifestyle practices such as exercising regularly, consuming a nutritious diet, maintaining a healthy body weight, avoiding tobacco use and practicing good posture can be beneficial for overall health as well as spinal health.
  • Physical therapy. A physical therapist or other health care professional can prescribe an appropriate stretching and exercise regimen to meet a patient’s specific needs. A common goal is to increase the flexibility and strength of the muscles that support the neck, which in turn can help reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Hot and cold therapy. An ice pack or heating pad can be applied directly to a painful area in the neck as needed for temporary relief.
  • Pain management using medications or injections. Over-the-counter pain relievers and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can often be effective. If further relief is needed, a physician may prescribe stronger pain medications, such as oral steroids or muscle relaxants. Other options may include cervical epidural steroid injections and cervical facet injections, which can deliver powerful anti-inflammatory medications directly to a painful area in the neck.

Additionally, some patients also benefit from complementary and alternative treatments for degenerative joint disease in the neck, such as chiropractic manipulation, therapeutic massage, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), acupuncture and neck bracing.

Surgery to treat cervical degenerative joint disease

For severe or persistent symptoms that do not respond to conservative treatment, surgery may be considered. For instance, cervical degenerative joint disease can potentially cause neurological symptoms, such as persistent arm numbness, muscle weakness, walking difficulties or loss of bowel control. Because these symptoms can indicate a risk of permanent nerve damage, surgery may be recommended to alleviate pressure on a compressed spinal nerve.

If you’re considering surgery to address degenerative joint disease in your neck, contact USA Spine Care to request a no-cost MRI review.* Our caring team can help you determine if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive outpatient surgery, which is a safer and effective alternative to traditional open neck surgery.^

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