What is cervical osteoarthritis?

By: HowStuffWorks.com Contributors

Neck pain and stiffness is a common complaint among adults, and this common problem may actually be a sign of cervical osteoarthritis. Cervical osteoarthritis refers to inflammation and swelling of the joints in the neck. It results from years of wear and tear on the cartilage and disks in your neck. Your neck bones and cartilage deteriorate over time, leading to troubling symptoms, like unrelenting neck pain and neck stiffness. Bone deterioration can also lead to irregular bone growths, also known as bone spurs [Mayo Clinic]. Cervical osteoarthritis is fairly common in older age. In fact, almost everyone over the age of 60 show signs of cervical osteoarthritis on X-ray [PubMed Health].

Even if you do show signs of cervical osteoarthritis on X-ray, you may not actually experience any troubling symptoms of the condition. When you do start experiencing symptoms, however, seek medical attention, as there are many different noninvasive and effective treatment options. A stiff neck coupled with numbness in your hands, arms and legs may be an indication of worsening cervical osteoarthritis. Other common symptoms include shoulder and arm pain, tingling in your arms, hands or feet, poor coordination or difficulty walking, poor reflexes and decreased bladder control [Mayo Clinic; PudMed Health]. Moderate to severe cervical osteoarthritis symptoms can greatly impact your everyday functioning.


Mild cervical osteoarthritis can be treated without medication. Consider physical therapy and appropriate sitting and lying positions to promote proper posture and spine pressure. Various over-the-counter and prescription medication may also prove helpful. Try nonprescription pain relievers, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, as a first line of treatment. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, narcotic medicines and muscle relaxants may help if nonprescription pain relievers are not sufficient [Mayo Clinic]. In more serious cases, you may require corticosteroid steroid injections or even surgery to remove bone spurs and relieve pressure on your spinal cord.