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Degenerative Neck Arthritis Care Brisbane - Blair Certified Doctor of Chiropractic

Understanding Degenerative Neck Arthritis

Are you or a family member experiencing pain or discomfort due to arthritis in your neck?

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How severe it is affecting your daily life? Your ability to sit in front of a computer? Or read a book? Or do any hobbies you would like to do? What about your ability to sleep? Is it causing you pain, pulling in your neck or headaches? Numbness or tingling in your hands like carpal tunnel syndrome? Or is it simply so uncomfortable that you can’t get any relief?

Depending on the amount of neck arthritis that you have, you may have been told to simply take medication to help the pain, of that an injection could help if it ever gets severe enough. To a certain degree, this might help.

However, if you are the type of person who prefers a natural approach and does not want to rely on medication just to get through the day, this option may not be too appealing. You would much prefer to take a natural approach, doing things like diet, exercise, massage, acupuncture, chiropractic, or physiotherapy if it will help.

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Nevertheless, there are so many potential options out there that you aren’t sure what to do! You may also have tried many of these treatments or even sought specialists for neck arthritis in Brisbane but still not found a solution that has worked for you. 

 

Now you don’t know what to do! And you worry that surgery might be the only option left.

If this describes you, you are in the right place. Now, I’m not going to pretend that I have all the answers. When it comes to neck arthritis, no one does. What I would like to share with you is a gentle and natural option if you are experiencing the pain of arthritis in your neck so that you may be able to enjoy a better quality of life with fewer aches, pains, and restrictions.

If you’re looking for a natural, non-invasive solution to help, I would like to tell you about a unique approach to healthcare that we use at Atlas Health in North Lakes (north Brisbane) called Blair upper cervical care may be able to help you if you are experiencing neck arthritis.

 

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How to “Read” Degenerative Neck Arthritis Symptoms

Arthritis in the neck - or anywhere in your body - is an interesting phenomenon because no two cases are alike. Degenerative arthritis of the cervical spine (aka osteoarthritis or spondylosis as it is commonly described on x-ray reports) is the result of a long-standing process of wear and tear.

Imagine that you have a bicycle that you leave out in the rain for 10 years. What will the bike look like? Rusty. Then imagine trying you use the bike WITHOUT replacing any parts. Things will grind and crunch if they can even move at all! There will be difficult moving the pedals, the chain, the handlebars … everything!

As a metaphor, that is what neck arthritis is: “rust” that has accumulated in the joints of your neck, and now produces restriction and aggravation of the surrounding tissues when you try to move it.

I will address the potential causes of neck osteoarthritis later in this article. For now, I need to let you know what this “rusting” process means, and also what it does not mean.

By itself, neck arthritis is not a guarantee that you will experience neck pain, headaches, tingling in your hands, or anything like that! Many people, who I have worked with over the years have a neck absolutely riddled with arthritis … and the only thing that they say is, “Oh, it’s a little stiff in the morning, and I can’t turn my head as far, but it isn’t really painful or anything.” Other people have a fraction of arthritis that the first group has … but they are in absolute agony.

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What I want to emphasise here is that just because you have arthritis in your neck does not mean that you will experience pain. The number of times I have heard a story where a healthcare professional told a person, “Well what should you expect? You’re old, and so you have arthritis in your neck. You just have to deal with the pain.” … That is utter rubbish!

True, once neck arthritis develops, you will probably not be able to undo it. However, it does not mean that you just have to put up with pain. Its because the two are not linked!

The only thing that degenerative arthritis in the neck means is that you restricted movement and a greater probability of experiencing discomfort … but not a guarantee of it.

So there are two questions you may have at this point: “What has happened to cause the problem in the first place?” and “What can you do about it?”

 

What Can Cause Degenerative Neck Arthritis

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There are many flavors of arthritis including conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, erosive arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, and so forth. Degenerative arthritis is the result of a physical injury that causes a structural shift with the bones of your neck and spine compounded by years of adaptation.

If you were to drive a manual car on the highways at 100kph in second gear, what do you suppose will happen to your transmission? Your car won’t blow up, but you will grind your gears into dust! And then you will have to replace it.

Our necks are the weakest link in our spines. It is a necessary exchange so that we can have the flexibility to move our heads. Alas, so many types of injuries that we experience can damage the alignment of the bones in our neck. Not a fracture, and not a dislocation either, but a shift by even a couple of millimetres may be enough to destabilise the entire system.

Your brain is not stupid. And your body is not weak.” If something like this happens, your body will make a series of compensations in order to heal. Your body will actually remodel the shape of your vertebrae and lay down additional bone in areas of excessive stress.

Overtime - often 10, 20, 30 or even 40 years - this process leads to the findings we see on x-ray, CT, and MRI scans of “bone spurs” or “degenerated discs” that are the hallmarks of degenerative arthritis.

These features can also act as metaphorical “pebbles in your shoe:” a source of potential friction that rubs against your muscles and ligaments, thereby producing pain. 

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Of course, as the degenerative process continues, it causes the bones to begin to fuse. As this process happens, here is where people find they are unable to move their heads or necks as far as they once were. It is seldom an overnight process (unless there is an acute trigger), but one many years in the making.

Therefore, when it comes to finding a solution for neck arthritis unless you know a “cure: for 1) gravity, 2) time and 3) the continual stress of daily life, it is highly unlikely that you will ever be able to undo the structural damage that you already have.

That said, remember that there is no absolute guarantee of pain with arthritis. Therefore, by doing the right activities, it is still possible for you to take the pressure off of your damaged bone structures, and thus for you experience relief,

 

Most Common Reasons Adults get Degenerative Neck Arthritis

The answer is NOT, “It’s because you’re getting older.” That statement is also a load of rubbish. Some 50-year-olds have huge amounts of damage in their necks. Other 80-year-olds have minimal damage.

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The chronological age of the person has nothing to do with it. It is simply the probability that older people will have had longer-standing injuries, therefore more time for neck degeneration to develop IF they had an injury a lot of time ago but never sought treatment.

Remember the bike and rust analogy. There is a difference with the amount of rust if the bike has been left outside for only 2 days versus 2 months versus 2 years versus 2 decades.

You may find it interesting to know that it takes as little as 4-6 weeks following an injury for the cellular processes of degenerative neck arthritis to start … but it may take years before you experience the first symptom of any change!

It is like a dental cavity. Usually, you don’t feel the pain until the cavity has been there for a long time. The problem is that when you suffered the physical injury, you brushed it off because you “felt fine” afterward, never realign the potential damage it would cause years down the track.

So why do adults get neck arthritis: it’s simply because they weren’t aware of what happened to them in the past. As I mentioned before, unless you have a time machine, we can’t go back to change that. What you can do is change what you do now so that you can solve as much of the problem as you can.

 

Most Common Reasons Children get Degenerative Neck Arthritis

Yes, you read that correctly. Degenerative neck arthritis in kids is a real thing!

Maybe not in 5-10-year-olds (although you can already see the structural changes taking place that will lead to arthritis down the track). But 15-20-year-olds, yes, we are seeing increasing signs of arthritis in their necks that we did not use to see until people were usually 30 years old (and even that is far too young!).

Consider first the traditional ways that children and adolescents could hurt their necks: skateboards, bicycles, trampolines, horse riding, dancing falls, sports tackles, surfing, etc. Even the many bumps, trips, and scrapes that happen when kids are learning to walk - even the process of birth if caesarian, vacuum, breech or other such complications happened - are more than enough to cause the type of injuries that I’m describing that will change the physical structure of these children’s spines, leading to a greater likelihood of developing neck arthritis later in life. 

Now add the neck ways that children and adolescents destroy their necks: texting, tablet games, and computers. And not just for recreation after school for a couple of hours. We’re talking all day, every day! Already, research is supporting what healthcare practitioners have been observed for years that degenerative changes including spondylosis and exostosis that take years to develop are occurring in a younger-and-younger population.

“As the twig is bent, so grows the tree.”

It is not to say that all bumps, knocks or bruises, or even the use of technology causes permanent injury that will lead to neck arthritis. That simply is not true! However, if there is any significant source of physical stress - either a discrete injury or repetitive stress enough - that causes a children’s joint structure to shift, it is far more likely that there will be problems down the track. 

Headaches, migraines, and other physical issues such as growing pains are never normal. They may be “common,” but not normal, and should be seen as early warning signs that there is something going on beneath the surface that needs help.

 

What to do about Degenerative Neck Arthritis

Whether your goal is to prevent further deterioration, or if it is to find relief from the neck arthritis pain you already have, there is hope. Foremost, I must emphasis again that because we live on planet Earth with gravity, if you already have a measurable degree of arthritis, you can’t just pretend that it doesn’t exist.

What you can do are three things. First, make sure that you use and move your neck and well as you can. Not to the point of causing excruciating pain, though. If degenerative neck arthritis is like that rusty bike, the worst thing you could do would actually be to stop using it. If you do, the rust will cause the thing to lock up and fuse. And then you may never be able to move it again!

So what is the number one most important thing you can do if you neck arthritis? It is to exercise. Keep using and moving your neck as well as you possibly can. Exercise and movement are more important than any anti-inflammatory diet or any therapy I can recommend.

The second thing that you can do is to make changes in your diet and lifestyle that may be promoting inflammation in your body. The pain or neck arthritis is often associated with other factors that predispose an individual to pain: things like smoking, alcohol consumption, a poor diet with excessive sugary or processed foods especially!

So if you are serious about overcoming the pain you are experiencing, you must seriously look at the other things in your life that may be contributing to the problem.

The third thing - and this is the specific area where someone like me may be able to help - is by helping to restore those old injuries as much as possible. Now, we aren’t talking surgery as if we were going to replace the parts of that rusty bike to make it new again. We don’t have the technology to do that.

No one, not even a specialist in Brisbane for neck arthritis does! What we can do is use specific, gentle, and natural methods that assist with restoring normal mobility through the joints in your neck.

By allowing the system to move freer as it is meant to, people with neck arthritis - even severe arthritis - may still be able to experience significant relief even if other things have not worked. Here is where the unique approach that we use at Atlas Health in North Lakes (north Brisbane) may be able to help. It is called Blair upper cervical chiropractic care.

 

Chiropractic and Degenerative Neck Arthritis

Foremost, Blair upper cervical care is not the same thing as general chiropractic or spinal manipulation. If you have any significant amount of degenerative arthritis, gross spinal manipulation is not going to be a good idea! So I wanted to address that first.

So, what is Blair upper cervical care? And how is it different? Upper cervical care is a post-doctorate division of general chiropractic that requires years of additional study beyond a standard university chiropractic degree.

The Blair method is a particular approach to care that focuses on the normal alignment and movement through the joints of the neck with the greatest emphasis on the joints of the upper neck - the C1 (atlas) and the C2 (axis) - which account for 50% of your ability to look up-and-down, and also 50% of your ability to turn your head sideways.

The approach was researched and developed in the USA in order to provide the most precise type of care - personalised for the needs of each person - so that any correction can be performed with the least amount of force for the greatest outcome possible.

And I repeat, there is no twisting, popping or “cracking” the neck. Instead, the procedure is performed on a neutral adjusting table where you lie on your side. Then, a force equivalent only to what you would use to feel your pulse is directed through the vertebrae in your neck is ordered to restore the normal movement.

By restoring movement without stretching the neck (which can sometimes cause injury if done the wrong way), we may be able to take the pressure off of the joints and nerve receptors so that people experience improvement in their comfort, muscle tightness and pain levels that they have not experienced with other approaches.

And so even if we can’t undo the neck arthritis, we can still improve function so that you can better perform the activities that you enjoy doing without pain or discomfort.

 

Chiropractic Treatment for Degenerative Neck Arthritis

The focus of Blair upper cervical care is on the alignment of the vertebrae in your neck and the impact that they have on the health and function of your nervous system.

The process begins with a baseline assessment of your condition, which involves 1) a detailed posture assessment that shows where the stress in your body is, and why it is that certain parts of your body may have developed arthritis; 2) a series of neurological assessments, which include infrared paraspinal thermography, which measures the activity of your muscles and nervous system; and 3) a unique series of x-ray views that show the alignment of your neck from angles that cannot be seen on standard x-rays or even CTs or MRIs.

In other words, we aren’t just looking at the degenerative neck arthritis. We are looking to see where the small but important injuries to your neck occurred, and thus where we need to focus our treatment efforts. As a result, we may be able to identify a situation with your neck that you did not realise you had, and thus ay be able to offer a solution that no one else has been able to provide.

Helping people with degenerative neck arthritis is a process that takes time. The longer ago that the injury happened, the longer caretakes. Moreover, the state of your overall health when you start care also plays a significant role in your prognosis. The better you exercise, the better your diet, and the better you take care of your body, typically the better your outcome.

So if you are ready to find out if Blair upper cervical chiropractic care may be able to help you, please give us a call or send us an email. We will do our best to help you.  

To schedule an appointment, or if you have any questions about Blair upper cervical chiropractic and if it may be right for you, please contact our office at 07 3188 9329. Our office is located in North Lakes, just off the Bruce Highway, serving the north Brisbane, Moreton Bay, and Sunshine Coast.

 

References

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Cramer GD, Fournier J, Henderson C. Degenerative changes of the articular processes following spinal fixation. J Chiro Educ 2002;1:7-8. 

Cramer GD, Henderson CN, Little JW, Daley C, Grieve TJ. Zygapophyseal joint adhesions after induced hypomobility. J Manipulative Physiol Ther 2010;33(7):508-18. 

Cramer GD, Fournier JT, Henderson CN, Wolcott CC. Degenerative changes following spinal fixation in a small animal model. J Manipulative Physiol Ther 2004;27(3):141-54.

Mingels S, Dankaerts W, Granitzer M. Is There Support for the Paradigm 'Spinal Posture as a Trigger for Episodic Headache'? A Comprehensive Review. Curr Pain Headache Rep. 2019 Mar 4;23(3):17. doi: 10.1007/s11916-019-0756-2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30830498

Shahar D and Sayers MGL. Prominent exostosis projecting from the occipital squama more substantial and prevalent in young adults than older age groups. Scientific Reports. 8;3354:20 Feb 2018. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-21625-1 

Taylor DN. A theoretical basis for maintenance of spinal manipulative therapy for the chiropractic profession. J of Chiropr Humanities (2011) 18, 74–85. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3342827/

Teng CC, Chai H, Lai DM, Wang SF. Cervicocephalic kinesthetic sensibility in young and middle-aged adults with or without a history of mild neck pain. Man Ther. 2007 Feb;12(1):22-8. Epub 2006 Jun 14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16777468

Wong JJ, Shearer HM, Mior S, et al. Are manual therapies, passive physical modalities, or acupuncture effective for the management of patients with whiplash-associated disorders or neck pain and associated disorders? An update of the Bone and Joint Decade Task Force on Neck Pain and Its Associated Disorders by the OPTIMa collaboration. Spine J. 2016 Dec;16(12):1598-1630. doi: 10.1016/j.spinee.2015.08.024. Epub 2015 Dec 17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26707074

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