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1st Dec

2012

Osteoarthritis Common Cause of Neck Pain

Osteoarthritis, or wear and tear of the joint cartilage, affects us all as we age. It most commonly may start to cause pain in our 50s, but some people are affected more than others, which may be related to factors such as genetic predisposition, past traumas, excessive or insufficient physical activity (i.e. exercise in moderation is typically the best prescription for health), being overweight, smoking, poor diet, metabolic disorders, etc. It in particular can affect weightbearing joints, including spinal joints, called facet joints. It typically goes along with degeneration of the intervertebral disc between each spinal vertebra.

This condition may cause local neck or upper back and shoulder pain, or pain extending into the arm, especially if a nerve in the neck has gotten irritated or compressed by e.g. bone spurs or bulging discs in the neck. This may even cause tingling or numbness, or weakness in the arm.

Quite often, people report having had an ache or stiffness in the neck for some time, which they have considered simply being part of getting older, and therefore have not sought care. However, appropriately performed and dosed exercise, manual therapy and postural correction often results in reduced pain and improved neck mobility.

The goal with treatment is to decrease the pain and associated muscle guarding and tightness, improve neck mobility, and allow the neck to better tolerate strains and the weight of the head during daily activities.

Hands-on manual techniques such as soft tissue mobilization, joint mobilization and manual neck traction can all help, and low to moderate intensity exercise can aid in improving mobility, and in improving circulation to supply oxygen and other nutrients to the tissues, and remove irritating waste products in muscles from prolonged muscle tension. Key muscles can be activated and trained, to add muscular support and stability to the affected joints.

Emphasis of training is not on increasing resistance with exercise, as with strength training, or any aggressive weightbearing exercise, since this may cause excessive compression on the arthritic joints. Rather, it is more beneficial to train these joints with no or light resistance and many repetitions without causing pain, repeated several times per day. Some people may benefit from daily light traction to the neck performed lying down.

It is important for many people to modify their gym exercises and workout routines to avoid jarring, such as with jumping and running, and heavy resistance training with the arms-especially with pull down type exercises, and to maintain proper neck posture during the exercises. Stretching exercises to the neck can often aggravate these joints as well.

With this last newsletter of 2012, we all wish you Happy Holidays!

Best wishes,

Gunnar

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