As is the case with any part of the spine, the seven vertebrae that make up the cervical spine can be affected by age. It’s essentially a combination of genetics and lifestyle that plays a role in the severity of the pain sometimes resulting from the effects of aging on the cervical spine.
Joints Affecting Other Joints
The wear and tear that affects the joints of the neck with age sometimes extends to secondary joints. As discs narrow over time, and a change in the way affected discs move places pressure on nearby joints. The result is degenerative arthritis that occurs due to inflammation caused by the added pressure on secondary joints. Bone growths can sometimes grow on the front part of the cervical spine over time (dysphagia), sometimes resulting in difficulty swallowing. Age-related neck conditions can also include:
• Cervical disc degeneration
• Cervical arthritis (cervical spondylosis)
• Cervical herniated disc
• Cervical stenosis
Increased Susceptibility to Injury
Conditions often associated with aging, such as rheumatoid arthritis, can result in a reduction in physical activities and exercise. Degenerative changes due to muscle weakness can result in increased susceptibility to injury. The result is often muscle strain that’s felt as neck pain or stiffness.
Radiating Pain from Degenerative Changes
Neck pain related to degenerative changes can be difficult to diagnosis when the pain radiates to nearby areas like the shoulders and arms. Radiating pain can be caused by compression on nerve roots either from a narrowing of the cervical spine or from bone spurs placing pressure on nerves.
Minimizing Age-Related Neck Pain
Cervical spine discomfort can be minimized with regular exercise based on capabilities and regular doctor’s visits to identify possible issues as early as possible. Additional steps that can be taken to reduce age-related neck pain include:
• Adopting proper posture
• Maintaining a well-balanced diet
• Minimizing repetitive neck and head movements
Age-related neck conditions aren’t usually treated until pain becomes a problem. Diagnosis includes a thorough examination to rule out neurological issues and image testing to locate a source of the discomfort. Treatment can range from anti-inflammatory drugs to cervical artificial disc replacement if pain fails to respond to other remedies.
To learn more about how aging can affect spine and back health, turn to The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration. Medical Director Dr. Hyun Bae can diagnosis the source of your pain and help you determine the right course of treatment. Call (310) 828-7757 and start your journey towards a pain-free life today.