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Cervical Degenerative Joint Disease

Aging often leads to a plethora of aching joints. But when the discomfort of neck pain prevents you from doing the things you enjoy, seek help from an expert in spine ailments. Dr. Branko Skovrlj — the leading neurosurgeon at NU-Spine in Edison, New Jersey — treats a full range of spine problems using a multidisciplinary approach. Maybe you can’t prevent cervical degenerative joint disease, but you don’t have to live with the pain. Disability is avoidable when you rely on a spinal treatment team that uses the latest in spinal care technology, including minimally invasive surgery. Call NU-Spine today to book an appointment.

What Is Cervical Degenerative Joint Disease?

Cervical degenerative joint disease is an arthritic condition that occurs when the joints in the vertebrae of your cervical spine age and deteriorate. The cervical spine is the top part of your spine, which connects your neck to your upper back. Cervical degenerative joint disease is one of the major causes of neck pain, and it inhibits the way you can move in a number of ways.

You may have some or all of the symptoms associated with this disease. The severity of the symptoms also varies. Seek relief at NU-Spine, The Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery Institute, in Edison New Jersey if you experience symptoms that include:

  • Mild to severe neck pain that radiates to the shoulder blade and down your arm
  • Muscle spasms
  • Pain and tenderness around the affected facet joint
  • Difficulty sitting comfortably
  • Pain after excessive activity, which disappears with rest
  • Loss of motion in your shoulders
  • Inability to bend backward
  • Changes in the usual curvature of your spine
  • Localized swelling around the affected joint
  • Difficulty turning your head or looking up
  • Stiffness in your joints after resting for a while

Where Can I Get Expert Spinal Care in New Jersey?

If you notice any of these symptoms, seek the advice of Dr. Branko Skovrlj, an experienced neurological surgeon at NU-Spine. He offers personalized spinal care diagnosis and treatment at a state-of-the-art facility in north-central New Jersey. Dr. Branko specializes in:

A multidisciplinary approach gives you effective results for chronic spinal pain, specialized pain management and personalized spinal treatment. Your NJ spinal doctor develops a treatment plan suited to you and your lifestyle to address your neck pain once and for all.

What Happens During Cervical Joint Degeneration?

Your neck vertebrae consist of three distinct sections, each serving a different function:

  • The anterior or ventral body, which distributes the weight
  • The medial or neutral arch, which enables allowable movement
  • The lateral transverse and posterior or dorsal spinous processes, which controls the range and direction of movement

The facet joints have a smooth, shiny contact surface covering the ends of the bones. This articular cartilage facilitates the fluid movement of the bones over each other with reduced friction and stress. Each joint also features a protective sleeve called a capsule that’s lubricated by synovial fluid. It’s a system that, when operating problem-free, gives your neck its full range of motion.

During the early stages of cervical spine joint degeneration, the otherwise smooth, white and translucent joint cartilage turns yellow and opaque. The cartilage also develops patches of softness and roughness. As a result, the bones don’t glide over each other. Instead, turning your head becomes a painful experience as the bones rub against each other. You may develop cervical facet syndrome.

What Are the Causes and Risk Factors?

Facet joints in the neck are susceptible to wear and tear with age. They also can suffer degeneration, inflammation and arthritic changes. When your cervical vertebrae suffer these conditions, it results in:

  • Pain and discomfort
  • Loss of your normal range of motion
  • Concurrent pain in your shoulders and arms
  • Inability to perform your regular daily tasks
  • Reduced performance in sports

In addition to joint degeneration due to age, other risk factors for developing cervical degenerative joint disease include:

  • A sudden fall or trauma, such as getting whiplash in an auto accident
  • Repetitive stress injuries at work or from sports
  • Exercising and weightlifting excessively
  • Genetic factors
  • Unintended or continual backward motions

The softened areas in the joints crack and wear out in time to expose the bone under the cartilage. The edges of the facet joints then develop bone spurs or osteophytes. At this point, you’re experiencing persistent pain, unable to perform your normal activities. Left untreated, cervical degenerative joint disease can lead to hunchback, misalignment of your spine and other related conditions that may require a complete cervical disc replacement or fusion.

How Do You Treat Cervical Degenerative Joint Disease?

The treatment for cervical degenerative joint disease depends on the severity of your condition. The earlier you seek treatment, the better chance you have of reducing your pain before the condition worsens. The worse your condition, the more invasive the medical solution, so don’t let it get that bad; seek treatment at the first sign of lingering neck pain.

The spinal doctor at NU-Spine carries out extensive diagnostic tests to identify the underlying issue. In addition to taking a medical history and a thorough examination, the cervical spine specialist at NU-Spine also may recommend diagnostic tests such as x-rays, CT scans or an MRI before recommending treatment. Treatment options include:

  • Resting your neck
  • Alternating between ice and heat therapy
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs to minimize the pain and swelling
  • Steroid injections to reduce inflammation for moderate-to-severe conditions
  • Physical therapy to improve range of motion, restore joint function and improve joint mobility
  • Medical devices such as a neck collar to reduce stress on the facet joints, muscles and cervical spine

What if I Need Spine Surgery?

Dr. Skovrlj is a leading spine surgeon and one of the most experienced physicians in the region. Surgical procedures may be necessary when the cervical joint degeneration has affected normal nerve function. This often comes in the form of pinched nerves from the bone spurs that formed. Options for minimally invasive surgery may consist of:

If you’re in constant neck pain, contact your cervical spine specialist at NU-Spine. You can expect personalized, comprehensive spinal care at the modern facility in Edison, NJ.

Page Updated on Jan 27, 2022 by Dr. Branko Skovrlj (Neurosurgeon / Spine surgeon) of NU-Spine: The Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery Institute in New Jersey

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