According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), arthritis affects an estimated 50 million Americans. The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis, in which the cartilage surrounding joints becomes brittle and wears away, causing the tendons and ligaments supporting them to become stretched and painful. Eventually, the bones may even rub directly against each other, triggering even more pain. The result is that the arthritis sufferer loses mobility in the affected joints, and may develop chronic pain whenever they use them. The joints most commonly affected by osteoarthritis are the knees and two areas of the spine - the lower back (lumbar spine) and the neck (cervical spine).
Medical treatments for cervical or neck arthritis, the form of osteoarthritis we are focusing on in this article, are primarily pharmacological, using NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as diclofenac, ibuprofen, and naproxen) to reduce swelling and treat minor pain, codeine to treat more serious pain, and muscle relaxants. More serious cases are sometimes treated with amitriptyline, which reduces nerve pain in some cases, but which also has undesirable and uncomfortable side effects.
Neck arthritis has been treated by chiropractors for many years with a great deal of success. While much of the clinical evidence has been anecdotal, a new study published in the February 2014 issue of the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics validates the use of spinal adjustments to manage the pain of neck arthritis and improve function. The study is a retrospective case review of older patients who were diagnosed with cervical arthritis and treated in a multidisciplinary clinic that provided both chiropractic and orthopedic services. All patients were thus treated by a chiropractor with a combination of upper cervical manipulation and mechanical mobilization device therapy. Their progress was measured by physical examination and X-rays, and their pain levels were determined by self-assessment, using a numeric pain scale (NPS).
The patients' perceptions of their pain levels before spinal manipulation averaged 8.6 on the NPS, with a range of 7 to 10. After manipulation, the average NPS rating was 2.6, with a range of 0 to 7. However, the patients' improvement wasn't limited to their subjective assessment of pain relief (though this is important, of course).
They also experienced substantial improvement in mobility. The patients' ability to freely rotate their C1-C2 vertebrae increased from an average of 28 degrees at the start of the study to an average of 52 degrees. Clinical improvements in pain were seen in 80% of patients, and clinical improvements in range of motion were seen in 90% of patients.
The researchers therefore concluded that chiropractic treatment of neck arthritis was definitely effective, and provided both physical and psychological benefits to the patients in the study. These findings confirm that chiropractic care can provide safe, effective, drug-free relief to older adults suffering from neck arthritis. The findings supplement earlier research that has found that chiropractic manipulation can reduce arthritis symptoms in the knees, hips, and hands.
If you or a loved one suffers from neck arthritis, give us a call at (303) 776-6767 and find out how we can help!