Like the rest of the body, the disks and joints in the neck, called the cervical spine, slowly degenerate as we age. Neck arthritis, which is known medically as cervical spondylosis is the result of these age related, “wear and tear” changes that occur over time. Neck arthritis can also result from previous trauma such as from a car accident or contact sports that result in repetitive minor neck injury, such as football. Neck arthritis is extremely common with more than 85% of people over the age of 60 suffering from neck pain and stiffness from degenerative changes.
The facet joints are the joints in your spine that make your spine flexible. Healthy facet joints have cartilage, which allows your vertebrae to move smoothly against each other without grinding. If it degenerates you can experience neck arthritis. Further, if the discs between the vertebrae become compressed, simply wear out from age or repetitive pressure or trauma there can be increased pressure on the facet joints. As the facet joints experience increased pressure, they also begin to degenerate and develop arthritis. If the smooth, slippery articular cartilage that covers and protects the joints wears away it will result in neck arthritis.
Neck arthritis can cause pain, stiffness, headaches, a “grinding” or “cracking” sound when you turn your neck, muscles spasms in the neck and shoulders and sometimes weakness and possibly even numbness in your arms, hands or fingers. When you experience these symptoms, especially pain, it can range from being mild to severe and can be made worse by looking up or down or by holding your head in the same position for long periods of time such as from driving or sitting at your computer or just reading a book. The pain usually improves with rest or lying down.