What is the Connection Between Arthritis and Neck Pain?

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  • Written By: Nicole Long
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 23 November 2019
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The cervical spine can experience stiffness and pain as a result of arthritic conditions. Rheumatoid arthritis and cervical spondylosis are the two most common conditions that result in arthritis and neck pain. These conditions can worsen over time and may require varying degrees of treatment to relieve pain and stiffness of the neck.

Seven vertebrae make up the cervical spine. Between the vertebrae are disks of collagenous material that can deteriorate over time due to several conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and cervical spondylosis, and age. When degeneration occurs, the joints of the spine must absorb the additional stress, and the nerves may be impacted leading to additional pain.

Diagnosis of arthritic conditions of the neck involves a physical exam and imaging tests. During a physical exam, a physician will evaluate the level of pain, degree of movement, and ask questions about frequency and severity of symptoms. Imaging tests including x-rays and ultrasounds can help provide visual evidence of conditions related to arthritis and neck pain.

Rheumatoid arthritis is considered an inflammatory autoimmune disease. The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis in the neck include pain, stiffness, tenderness, and swelling. Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease that requires long-term management and treatment.


Various treatment options exist for rheumatoid arthritis and neck pain. Medications, including disease modifying antirheumatic drugs and anti-inflammatory drugs, are standard treatment. Warm baths can help reduce the pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis and neck pain. In addition, rest and strengthening exercises can help sufferers deal with the day-to-day symptoms of the disease.

Cervical spondylosis develops because of the wear and tear on the bones of the cervical spine. Also known as osteoarthritis of the neck, cervical spondylosis may also occur with bone spurs, ligament damage, and disk degeneration. Beyond pain, osteoarthritis can cause muscle spasms, headaches, fatigue, and difficulty sleeping.

Cervical spondylosis is a result of wear and tear on the bones of the neck, which is typically a result of aging. Women tend to experience osteoarthritis more often than men after the age of 55. Other risk factors for developing osteoarthritis include obesity, previous neck injuries, and overuse.

The treatment options for cervical spondylosis include medication, lifestyle changes, and physical therapy. Over-the-counter pain relief medications, corticosteroid injections, and medicated skin cream can help relieve pain. Losing weight, using ice and heat therapies, and limiting sudden neck movements can also help. Participating in physical therapy exercises can help improve strength and mobility, though it may not work for everyone experiencing arthritis and neck pain.


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