Is Neck Arthritis Due to Age alone?
What really causes neck arthritis?
The ‘ normal wear and tear’ that really isn’t normal at all. The thing is that when people have neck degeneration/wear and tear/spinal decay/arthritis – it doesn’t appear throughout the entire neck.. Surprisingly, to answer is ‘NO’ to the question – is neck arthritis is due to age alone?
Arthritis generally will be seen in some, but not all the vertebrae (back bones) in the neck. So these bones are all ageing at the same rate, so it can’t be age.
So age does not cause arthritis!
Full stop! What age does do is add time so the stressed joint keeps being loaded with undue strain and as a consequence, keeps wearing unevenly. Often people in our office will see me waving my shoe around to make a point. If you walk on the outside of your shoe alone, then over a couple of hours no change will occur to the outside of that shoe. Try walking like that for 2 months, 6 months and what will happen.
There will be obvious wear on the outside of the shoe. The spine is the same.
Only when there is an:
- abnormal curve
- abnormal sustained poor posture
- an unresolved whiplash injury
- joint stiffness
The type of arthritis we are talking about is osteoarthritis. This is the abnormal wearing of joints due to changes in biomechanics and alignment. This applies for joints all over the body, knees, hips, shoulders and the spine.
Whether there has been an injury to the neck, through a history of sports or motor vehicle accidents, or there are long standing postural changes in the neck the results are the same:
1. Joints not moving properly
When joints are stuck and not moving then this creates compensations elsewhere. The lack of movement changes the way your brain perceives your neck and this can cause pain and stiffness in your neck.
- Can your turn your head 90 degrees to each side?
- Can you tilt your head to the side about 40 degrees?
- Are your movements even? Is pain present?
Remember all your movements in your neck come from the joints moving properly.
2. Changes in normal or ideal neck curve and positioning
Problems such as a loss of neck curve and changes in posture. Forward head posture (FHP), where your ear, instead of sitting over your shoulder, now sits in front – causing an increase strain and load to your neck. This posture can increase the stress on the lower neck by up to 4.25 times the normal forces. (1)
A loss of normal forward neck curve will cause more loading to the lower neck. The side curves in the spine act as shock absorbers, so less curves means there is more shock absorbed by joints, discs, muscles etc.
In summary, it is the understanding that abnormal alignment of the neck and a lack of normal movement give us the answers to the question ‘ is neck arthritis is due to age alone.’