"I have been diagnosed with Osteoarthritis in my neck.  What is this and can chiropractic help?"

Mrs M, Umberleigh, North Devon

SM News September 2010

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis and accounts for 85% of hip and knee replacements.   It is a degenerative disease of the bones and most commonly described as "wear and tear".   I tend to describe it as "grey hair for bones" and if you look hard enough it is present in most people over 55, often without symptoms.


The neck can be viewed as seven differently shaped blocks balanced on each other separated by cushions (cartilage) and supported by a system of ropes (ligaments) and springs (muscles).   Together they support the head which is roughly the size and weight of a 10 pin bowling ball.  Weaving through these structures are the nerves and the blood supply to the head neck and arms.  Damage to any these structures, often traumatic such as car crashes or sporting injuries, stimulates the normal repair mechanism.  However, in some people, perhaps because of the severity of the trauma, problems with the repair process or repetitive over use (usually at the computer!), there is continued tissue damage and symptomatic OA results. 



Technically, the disease process involves damage to the load bearing and articulating cartilage, new bone formation at the joint margins (osteophytes), changes in the bone below the cartilage (sclerosis), inflammation of the lining of the joint, the synovium (synovitis), and a thickening of the capsule around the joint.


Treatments for OA are many and numerous.  In my experience a multiple approach addressing all the different aspects of OA has the best results.  Chiropractic adjustments will ensure the head and neck are balanced correctly and that the weight through the neck is evenly distributed.  This will discourage the formation of osteophytes, improve the range of motion and reduce the stiffness.  A dietary supplement of Glucosamine sulphate and Chondroitin is now widely accepted as beneficial in repairing the lining of the joints and cartilage.  Exercises will promote synovial fluid (joint oil) production as well as strengthening the muscles.  Dry Needling (acupuncture) is effective at reducing the pain and a shaped pillow, that hugs the contours of the neck, will be beneficial at night.  Beyond this, many have found that dietary changes, magnets and topical lotions as well as anti-inflammatory and pain killing medication will help.  It really is a matter of trying different things and sticking to those that help the individual.


In summary Osteoarthritis is a condition that can be successfully managed with a structured care program.


Julien Barker

South Street Chiropractic