How to Tell if Neck Pain Is Neck Arthritis

Health Professional

Imagine holding a bowling ball all day, everyday, over your head.   Can you feel your shoulder muscles getting sore?   Can you imagine walking to work, sitting at your computer, cleaning your house, playing with your kids, and all the time holding that bowling ball over your head?   Well, that is essentially what your neck is doing all day.   All day, everyday, with few rests in between when you lie down, your neck is holding up your head, which actually weighs a little more than an average bowling ball.   In addition, if you are like most people then you probably don't walk around with perfect posture all the time.   You probably tend to carry your head in front of your body.   If you do, then it is more similar to holding the bowling ball in front of your head--which is even harder

It is no wonder that so many people develop neck pain!   However, just because you have neck pain, does it mean that you are arthritis? Of course not! While it is true that the chronic stresses coupled with sub-optimal biomechanics does tend to lead to increased wear-and-tear osteoarthritis in the small joints in the neck, it is also true that there are many potential causes of neck pain.   For example, neck pain may be caused by:

Ø   Muscle strain

Ø   Ligament sprain/strain

Ø   Facet joint capsule micro-tear

Ø   Discogenic pain

Ø   Infection

Ø   And these are just a few...

Neck pain may be secondary to osteoarthritis, but it may not.   Your best bet is always to get evaluated by a doctor for your pain in order to arrive at an accurate diagnosis, which is the first step towards a comprehensive treatment and a return to your active, pain-free life.

In addition, if you are experiencing pain radiating down your arm, or numbness, tingling, burning, or weakness in either of your arms or hands, be sure to get evaluated by your doctor. This may be a sign of a pinched nerve in your neck (called a radiculopathy) that needs medical attention.   Pinched nerves can occur as a result of neck osteoarthritis, herniated discs, or other causes.   After an evaluation in the office, your doctor may want to order a nerve test and/or a cervical MRI in order to help identify exactly what is causing your symptoms.

See also: Do spinal or neck arthritis cause headaches?