You’re probably familiar with arthritis as a prominent cause of joint pain, but are you aware the pain and other arthritis symptoms like stiffness can manifest in your neck? Your entire spine is made up of a series of joints called facet joints where the vertebrae link together. These joints are stacked through your neck and back and are just as vulnerable to damage from arthritis as any other joint in your body.
Neck pain isn’t an uncommon experience and can pop up at any time because of a number of problems or injuries. You might get neck pain after sleeping in an unusual position that places pressure on certain ligaments and muscles in your neck, or you might have some discomfort after suddenly turning or craning your neck. Still, neck pain from arthritis has some distinctive characteristics that set it apart.
Expert physical therapists, Jordan Boyd, PT, DPT, Jonathan Koborsi, PT, DPT, and the rest of our team at Elation Physical Therapy in Houston and Pearland, Texas, dedicate their time and effort to minimizing the damage arthritis does anywhere in your body, including your neck. Through personalized physical therapy, you can improve your neck’s mobility and minimize present and future neck pain.
The next time neck pain strikes, take note of the details of your symptoms. Being specific helps you get the right diagnosis so you can manage the pain in your neck using the most pertinent forms of treatment and experience comfort.
What sets neck pain from arthritis apart
When your neck hurts, you might have a hard time seeing past the pain itself and exploring the deeper or more subtle symptoms. Even if you don’t have symptoms at all times, it helps to track the symptoms when you do have them, including the types of symptoms you have and when they flare up.
Isolated neck pain is unlikely to have arthritis at the source. Mild to severe pain and stiffness are certainly the primary symptoms of arthritis in your neck but are not the only possibilities. Also common are:
- A grinding or grating sensation when you move your neck
- Neck popping with movement
- Spasms in your neck or shoulders
One unique characteristic of neck pain that comes from arthritis is referred symptoms. When symptoms like pain, weakness, or tingling are referred, it means they show up in areas other than where they start.
This happens because nerve roots in your cervical spine may be in close proximity to arthritis-related damage and inflammation. If nerve compression happens, referred pain is usually the result. This is called radiculopathy, and it’s a common complication of neck arthritis.
The “when” also matters in identifying neck arthritis. Getting symptoms after looking up or down for an extended period of time is common, as is neck pain after focusing on driving, a movie, or a book. When you rest, however, the pain and stiffness seem to subside.
The type of arthritis you have
There are hundreds of types of arthritis, and although not all of them commonly affect the neck, the two most prominent types do. There are some subtle differences between the symptoms of the two, and both ultimately worsen if you avoid treating them:
Osteoarthritis not only involves age-related joint degeneration in your spine but can also bring damage to the discs, which normally provide cushioning between vertebrae. This causes vertebrae to rub together, leading to additional discomfort and stiffness. The symptoms of osteoarthritis tend to be at their worst after any form of physical activity.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. Autoimmune conditions attack tissues in your body that don’t necessarily have anything wrong with them. In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, the linings of your joints are at risk of deterioration. When it affects the neck, rheumatoid arthritis symptoms vary from person to person but generally get worse over time without treatment. Many people also experience a throbbing ache near the base of their skull.
Neck pain can strike at any time, and without professional care at Elation Physical Therapy, arthritis-related neck pain only gets worse. Contact either of our offices by phone or online to schedule an appointment for your neck pain today.