As a person ages, cartilage in a person’s joints begins to degenerate. It’s interesting that what people often do not realize is that cartilage is being made at the same rate as it ever was. The problem is that it’s being lost at a faster rate over time. So there is a ratio problem that can lead to arthritis in the neck joints similar to that seen in extremities such as the hip or the knee.
Unlike the hip or the knee though, total joint replacement for the joints of the neck does not exist. There is a total disc replacement, but that does nothing for arthritis in the joints of the back of the neck. It has been an extremely successful procedure for both the hip and the knee, but in the neck arthritis in the joints is either dealt with non-operatively or with a spinal fusion. The only artificial replacements for the neck are for the disc which is not the source of the biggest problem in older adults.
So in essence the best way to handle arthritis of the neck is without surgery at Florida pain clinics. Typically arthritis affects multiple joints in the neck, so performing a spinal fusion for all of them would be inappropriate. Studies have shown surgical outcomes for neck arthritis with spinal fusion are suboptimal.
Here are 10 methods of dealing with neck arthritis to avoid surgery.
1. Over-the-counter medications. These medications include Tylenol or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen or naproxen. They are inexpensive and often very effective from mild to moderate neck arthritis. They should always be taken according to the manufacturers recommended dosing, and can provide significant pain relief on a regular basis.
2. Short term narcotic medication. For an arthritis situation, which is chronic in nature, long-term narcotics are a bad idea. however, there will be times when arthritis has a flareup exacerbation and it is not inappropriate to take a short term narcotic treatment to help get over this hump. Keep in mind that neither Tylenol nor anti-inflammatory medication actually change the course of the arthritis process. They are merely to reduce the symptoms.
3. Physical therapy. Physical therapy can reduce pain from neck arthritis by strengthening up the muscles around the degenerative joints. This can help take pressure off the arthritic areas and provide substantial pain relief. This is similar to extremity arthritis, and along with medication management can make patients much more comfortable.
4. Chiropractic Manipulations. The risk of a cervical spinal manipulation for a severe adverse event is between one in a million to 1 in 2 million. The benefits however, can be substantial especially if performed on a regular basis. along with spinal adjustments, chiropractors often perform electrical stimulation, laser treatment and ultrasound among other modalities in their offices.
5. Spinal decompression therapy. This is a treatment that was FDA cleared in the late 1990s and has been very effective for my arthritis. Intermittent spinal traction is applied which decompresses the arthritic joints and can provide months of pain relief. it can also help decompress nerves that are being pinched and get pain relief from spinal stenosis as well for an extended period of time. the cost of spinal decompression therapy is approximately 5% that of spine surgery.
6. Tens units. A TENS unit is a small device about the size of an iPod that can attach to a patient’s belt and works on the battery.Wires lead to foam pads that are placed over the area of pain and amid slight electrical impulses through the skin. This can alter the way the brain perceives pain signals and provide significant pain relief with very little risk and low cost.
7. Medial branch blocks. A medial branch block is an injection of numbing medicine around the arthritic joints of the neck. The facet joints in the neck receive sensation from tiny nerve endings called the medial branches. By blocking them with numbing medicine, they can tell the pain doctor if the appropriate joint is being worked on along with being a diagnostic procedure The medial branch block can also provide pain relief for a few months. It can then be repeated if desired or the pain doctor can move on to a radiofrequency ablation procedure.
8. Radiofrequency ablation. This is one of the most technologically advanced procedures in pain management today. The procedure involves thermal heat being applied to the small nerve endings around arthritic joints. This deadens those small nerve endings and can provide pain relief anywhere from a few months upwards of two years. eventually the nerve endings will grow back and the procedure can be repeated.
9. Facet injections. This is an outpatient, low-risk procedure similar to the medial branch block. The difference though is that steroid and numbing medicine are injected right into the arthritic cervical joints. This is similar to a steroid injection into a person’s knee and can provide months of pain relief. At that point they can be repeated.
10. Stem Cell injections have the potential for cartilage and joints regeneration. It will be interesting to see if these come into clinical mainstream practice over the next few years.
As mentioned, spinal fusion for neck arthritis is not a good idea. These nonoperative methods are the current gold standards for providing pain relief and a better quality of life for those individuals suffering from neck arthritis.
The Florida Pain Network has listings for pain clinics and doctors who can offer substantial pain relief for neck arthritis without surgery. For instance, the Network has listings for Clearwater pain management, pain clinics in Orlando, pain clinics in South Florida, and all over the state.
Simply visit THIS PAGE to see those clinics closest to you, or simply call (877) 877-8556 for assistance.