Posts Tagged ‘neck and back pain’

How Aging Affects Your Cervical Spine – Part II: Arthritis of the Neck

NeckArthritis_ 7-7Cervical spondylosis refers to the degenerative process of the vertebral disks in the neck (arthritis). Like the rest of the body, the bones in the neck slowly degenerate as we age, which frequently results in arthritis. Most of the time, this condition causes mild to moderate neck pain and stiffness.

Causes:

Neck pain is extremely common, with more than 85% of people over age 60 being affected. It’s typically caused by chronic wear on the cervical spine as a result of aging. Facet joints in the neck become enlarged, causing the ligaments around the spinal canal to thicken and bone spurs to form. Over time, these changes can press down on (compress) one or more of the nerve roots. In advanced cases, the spinal cord becomes involved.

Aside from aging, the other factors that can make a person more likely to develop spondylosis are:

  • Being overweight
  • Past neck or spine injury
  • Ruptured or slipped disk
  • Genetics – if your family has a history of neck pain

Symptoms:

Many people have spondylosis of the neck and do not know it. This is because most of the time, there are no symptoms, or the symptoms are mild. When symptoms do develop, they are typically neck pain, stiffness, headaches (especially in the back of the head), and sometimes shoulder pain. In rare cases, the pain may spread to the upper arm, forearm, or fingers.

Treatments:

Non-surgical

Treatment for cervical spondylosis depends on the severity of your signs and symptoms. Most patients who do not have neurological compression associated with spondylosis do not need surgery. Interventional treatments for cervical spondylosis may include:

  • Physical therapy – Strengthening and stretching weakened or strained muscles to relieve the pressure on the nerve root is usually the first treatment that is advised.
  • Medications – Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce swelling and pain and analgesics to relieve pain.
  • Steroid-based injectionsMany patients find short-term relief from steroid injections to help reduce swelling and treat acute pain that radiates to the hips or down the leg.

Surgical

For cervical spondylosis causing symptomatic compression of nerve roots or the spinal cord, surgery may be indicated to relieve pain and improve or preserve neurological function. For spondylosis without nerve root or spinal cord compression, surgery is typically avoided. In some unusual conditions, cervical spinal fusion can be performed.

Have you been told you need neck surgery? Over 90% of neck and back problems can be treated without surgery, but if surgery has been recommended, you may want to seek a second surgical opinion.

At the Emory Orthopaedic & Spine Center, our internationally-recognized spine surgeons research, pioneer and refine the most effective approaches to treating a variety of spine conditions.

To see if you may be a candidate for spine surgery, take our five minute spine quiz

About Dr. Rhee

John M. Rhee, MD, is a Spinal Surgeon and Associate Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery specializing in cervical spine surgery, lumbar spine surgery, complex spinal deformity surgery (scoliosis and kyphosis) and surgery for spinal tumors. Dr. Rhee is an active researcher and sought-after teacher/lecturer at the national and international level in multiple medical societies. He has served as faculty and been an invited lecturer at numerous meetings and courses on spine surgery. In addition, he has served as Program Chairman at numerous national and international spine surgery meetings. Dr. Rhee has also published extensively in a number of peer reviewed journals and books, and he has received numerous awards and honors. He is actively involved the training of international research scholars and other spinal surgeons and has been the author and editor of major textbooks on spine surgery techniques.

8 Tips to Fix Your Posture at Work

Good PostureFor the average working American, it is common to sit a minimum of eight hours a day and a majority of that behind a computer. I frequently see patients with neck and back pain that are not related to a specific injury, but rather from spending many hours at their desk (which usually involves using a computer). Sitting for extended periods of time can lead to a variety of health issues, including fatigue, muscle and joint pain.

Do you spend a lot of time behind a desk? If so, make sure your chair and work station are set up to fit you properly and influence good posture. Here are a few tips to help get you started:

  1. MONITOR POSITION: You should be able to sit straight in front of your computer and not have to turn from side to side to access it. The top half of the monitor should be in line with your eye height.
  2. DISTANCE FROM MONITOR: Keep your arms and elbows close to your body and parallel to the floor. You should not have to reach forward to use your keyboard. (Tip: try sitting about 18 inches from your computer screen).
  3. NECK: People who spend a lot of time on the phone often complain of neck pain. If you find yourself cradling your phone between your shoulder and chin so you can type and talk at the same time, switch to a headset or use a speaker phone. Also, be careful to not protrude your neck forward while looking at the computer screen. (Tip: Try keeping your ear in line with your shoulder)
  4. SHOULDERS: Keep your shoulders down and relaxed.
  5. BACK: Sit with your back pushed to the back of the chair with some form of lower back support between you and the chair back.
  6. ELBOWS and WRISTS: While typing, elbows should be at a 90-degree angle from your body, and your wrists and hands should be in a straight line. Make sure not to place stress on your wrists – keep them in a neutral position, not arched or bent. (Tip: Have the keyboard and mouse near each other and at the same height as your elbows).
  7. LEGS: When you’re sitting, your hips/thighs should be parallel to the ground or a little higher than your knees. Also, you don’t want the end of chair hitting the back of your knees—make sure to leave a little gap.
  8. FEET: Feet should touch the ground and lay flat on the floor. Sitting cross-legged or on one leg can lead to slouching. (Tip: if your feet cannot touch the floor, try using a footrest or box.)

Remember to give yourself breaks after you have been sitting for an extended period of time. Get up and move around regularly throughout the day, in fact, for every hour your work at your desk, give yourself several 1-2 minute breaks. Take a quick walk around the office, grab some water, chat with a coworker, or at least stand up and stretch.

I always tell my patients to listen to their body. If you are having pain, your body is trying to send you a message. If you experience neck or back pain that does not improve after trying the tips above, make an appointment with an Emory Spine physiatrist for further evaluation and treatment. To make an appointment, please call 404-778-3350 to speak to a member of our team.

About Diana Sodiq, DO

Dr. Diana SodiqDiana Sodiq, DO, is an Assistant Professor of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation Medicine. She is Board Certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (Physiatry). As an osteopathic physician, Dr. Sodiq is trained in both traditional medicine as well as osteopathic manipulative treatments (OMT). She started practicing at Emory in 2010.

 

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