Cervical Osteoarthritis : Causes & treatments

Osteoarthritis is a disease that affects the joints and is characterized by the wear and tear of the intervertebral discs, the cartilage of the intervertebral joints, associated with damage to the nearby bone . The cervical osteoarthritis (sometimes called cervical spondylosis ) is a form of arthritis affecting the cervical vertebrae located in the neck. This pathology most often appears from the age of 40, mainly concerns people over the age of 50 and causes pain , headaches (headaches), rigidity neck and be the cause of what is called cervico-brachial neuralgia. The treatments offered aim to soothe pain and slow the progression of the disease.

Cervical osteoarthritis is defined by the wear and tear of the cartilage located at the joints of the cervical vertebrae (neck), and this wear is associated with reactions of the nearby bone. It is a chronic disease that progresses gradually over several years. Osteoarthritis often causes attacks that are sometimes painful, but which resolve and do not necessarily come back.

Cervical Osteoarthritis Causes

The causes of cervical spondylosis are not well known. While it is true that the degradation of cartilage is often associated with too much strain on the neck, wear and tear also occurs in people whose neck is immobile for long periods of time, for example the military and the police who often have to rest. stand up straight for several hours. Apart from the fact that the neck is more or less solicited, cervical osteoarthritis is also due to the mechanisms involved in the degeneration and regeneration of cartilage.


The doctor will ask the patient about the pains felt, their onset, their intensity and their frequency. The clinical examination is then very important so that he understands at what level of the spine the arthritis can be located.

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Medical imaging exams ( X-rays, MRI, CT scan ) will show the presence of osteoarthritis. If arterial involvement is suspected, other examinations are performed such as arteriography or angiography.

The symptoms of cervical osteoarthritis

The clinical manifestations of the disease vary from case to case. In about 50% of cases, cervical osteoarthritis, although visible on X-ray, does not cause any disturbing signs. In other people, cervical osteoarthritis causes more or less intense pain in the neck and nape of the neck (cervicalgia), predominantly on one side, radiating to the scapula and occipital area.

Other symptoms:

  • Stiff neck  : The affected person feels stiff when performing movements, especially to answer a question with a nod of the head.
  • Torticollis: the neck is blocked in flexion and rotation,
  • Cervico-brachial neuralgia: it is a unilateral pain, radiating for example towards the scapula, the breast, the skull or the arm, and calmed by certain postures and increasing in other postures. Neck movements are limited by pain. This pain is due to the compression of a nerve. This pain is worsened by coughing and more severe at night.
  • Headache (headache)
  • Spinal cord compression or myelopathy: There is pressure on the spinal cord due to narrowing of the spinal canal due to osteoarthritis lesions. This triggers various signs: tingling in the arms, sensations of numbness, movement deficit (such as difficulty in picking up an object in the hands, in walking); problems such as urinary or anal incontinence when the compression is important.
  • Vertebrobasilar insufficiency: it occurs when an artery is compressed by the process of osteoarthritis. It can cause dizziness, balance disorders, hearing or vision disorders, speech difficulties, depending on the area affected by the compression.
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What are the risk factors for cervical arthritis?

Cervical osteoarthritis mostly affects people over 40 years of age . Repetitive strain injuries to the cervical area increase the risk of osteoarthritis at this level, such as cervical spine malformations, having suffered a trauma (such as whiplash), or people with a profession requiring this area of the spine.

What are the treatments for cervical osteoarthritis?

The available treatments have several objectives:

– Relieve pain in order to improve quality of life
– Prevent recurrence,
– Delay disease progression ,
– Treat with surgery when necessary, in order to avoid serious complications.

Several drugs can be prescribed to soothe pain and reduce inflammation: analgesics ( acetaminophen or paracetamol ), non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs ( Ibuprofen for example ), anti-inflammatory creams for local application. NSAIDs should be used with caution due to the side effects that may occur (gastrointestinal disturbances, heart problems).

When the pain is very severe, the doctor may use steroids or opiates (opium derivatives)
The physical therapy also helps to relieve pain and prevent recurrences, with push-ups on vertebrotherapy table, massage , stretching exercises, bodybuilding and softening of the affected areas, learning appropriate gestures not to reactivate pain.   

Wearing a foam collar or using an appropriate pillow can help relieve pain.

Surgery will be used when serious complications are diagnosed, such as neurological or arterial damage: these are cases where the nerves, the spinal cord or even the arteries are compressed. 

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When you have already experienced a neck pain crisis, it is strongly recommended to practice physiotherapy, in order to prevent recurrence. The physiotherapist can prescribe adapted stretching and weight training exercises, as well as learn to have a hygiene of movements and postures according to the profession exercised.
Working in front of a computer, for example, requires excellent ergonomics so as not to put too much strain on the neck area.
The Mezière method and osteopathy are an interesting remedy.

What are the complementary approaches to cervical osteoarthritis?

Several complementary approaches exist to stop the progression of cervical osteoarthritis and relieve the pain it causes.

Several substances are traditionally used to soothe pain or promote the regeneration of cartilage: capsaicin (present in chili), glucosamine , chondrïtin (substances present in the body), green tea .

Complementary Medicines

Among the most appropriate alternative medicines to treat cervical osteoarthritis, we should mention:

  • acupuncture, which is known to act on pain and muscular tension.
  • the thermal cure, which can be prescribed in the indication of neck pain.

Food supplements

The most widely used food supplements for osteoarthritis are glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate. The usual dosage is 1500 mg of glucosamine and 1000 to 1200 mg of chondroitin per day.


Homeopathy can offer Rhus toxicodendron, Arnica montana and Angustura vera in 5 CH to fight against osteoarthritis pain.

As field treatment we will use Dulcamara in 7 CH for increased pain in rainy weather, Nux vomica and Calcarea phosphorica in 5 CH for osteoarthritis which increases in cold weather.