Osteoarthritis is a term used to describe changes that occur at a joint that affect it’s health.
The first thing people usually think of when thet think of arthritis is 'wear and tear'. These two simple words paint a picture of a process of gradual decline of an affected joint. Recent research into the arthritis process shows that actually this view of arthritis is not correct!
Versus arthritis UK propose that instead we should think of arthritis as ‘tear, flare and repair’. This means that when the joint becomes inflammed and flares up it does it’s best to settle the inflammation and repair itself. The repair process leads to some of the symptoms associated with arthritis including tightness of the joint and a reduction in how far it can move.
- Neck and shoulder/shoulder blade pain – that comes and goes
- Problems getting comfortable in bed at night with discomfort or pain usually described as a dull ache
- Morning stiffness which takes around 10 minutes to ‘get going’
- Some people have headaches – often starting at the back of the neck
- Difficulty doing tasks for long periods such as gardening or hobbies
You could be more likely to get neck OA at any age, although it is rare under the age of 40. Risk factors for neck osteoarthritis are:
- a job that involves repetitive neck movements or a lot of overhead work – like painting and decorating
- previously had a neck injury
- a family history of the condition
- are overweight (this is associated with higher levels of inflammation in the body)
- are a smoker
Simple initial treatment:
If your symptoms have just started, or you are experiencing a flair up it could be worth modifying your activities, while things settle down. This could mean reducing the amount of time you spend in fixed postures or reducing the time performing activities that seem to aggrevate your pain. Its important that as things settle you try and return to your normal activity levels.
It may be helpful to perform some simple range of movement and strengthening exercises to help maintain your mobility and allow things to settle down.
Your GP might also prescribe a muscle relaxant or other pain medicine if the pain has been coming and going for a long time. If the pain is not severe you could try over the counter analgesia such as ibuprofen tablets, Ibuprofen Gel and/or paracetamol after discussing you medical history with your pharmacist to check any contraindications/cautions. In addition you could try heat packs or cold packs providing your skin sensitivity are normal and you will not get a heat/ice burn.
It usually takes a few weeks for treatment to work, although the pain and stiffness can come back. If your symptoms are not settling please refer yourself here.