How to Identify Arthritis of the Neck
What part of the body is arthritis most common?
Hi, I’m Bob Lahita, Chairman of Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center and Professor of Medicine at University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. I’m going to talk to you now about arthritis of the neck.The neck is a place where arthritis is common. The most common form of arthritis is called degenerative joint disease or osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis can involve any part of the spine, but the neck is an area that is of particular annoyance to many patients when arthritis develops. Today, with our extensive use of computers and our social networking tools where we are often hunched over, and we flex our necks, the chances of osteoarthritis occurring are quite great.Now, what are the signs and symptoms. Well, some of the things that you should be concerned about is a persistent pain in the neck. It feels as though your neck is cramped, and it can be localized to one side or the other side. And, you can actually have your doctor place his or her finger on a particular part of the neck which is painful. Sometimes this is manifested by numbness and tingling either in the shoulder, the back of the head, the jaw or the rest of the arm.In very severe cases, where the nerve is pinched, it comes out of the spinal body, you can actually have shooting pains down the arm into certain of the fingers, either the radial fingers or the ulnar fingers, and those are the nerves that come down the arm. So, a pinched nerve is usually the result and the first sign of arthritis of the neck.Now, how do we treat that? The first thing we do to make a diagnosis is we get an x-ray of your neck, something called a PA view - that’s a posterior/anterior view - a lateral view from the side, and then we do oblique views so that we can see the opening between the bones of the neck. And, oftentimes, there’s enough change there to see a pinched nerve, and the neurologist or rheumatologist will do specific tests to see if you have something called a radiculopathy.A radiculopathy means that a nerve is pinched, and the nerve that comes out of the spinal cord is called a radicle. And so, radiculopathy means disease of the radicle that comes through the little hole between the vertebral bodies, which are the bones of the neck. And, when you have degenerative joint disease, that narrows and sometimes the nerve can be squished. And if you notice, if you bend your neck a certain way, or flex it or extend it, you may worsen the numbness, the tingling and sometimes the shooting pains down the arm. That’s osteoarthritis, or arthritis of the cervical (cervical) spine.For more information about this, go to About.com.