Upper Back Arthritis

Upper back arthritis is not usually a disabling condition, but it can be painful if left untreated. Many symptoms can help you detect whether you have upper back arthritis. Most of the causes associated with upper back arthritis are age-related. Consult a qualified health care professional for diagnosis and to learn about the different types of treatment.

A therapist massaging the back of a mature male. (Image: Jupiterimages/PHOTOS.com>>/Getty Images)

Basics

Upper back arthritis is also known as cervical spondylosis. According to CNN Health, it is the most common reason for spinal cord dysfunction in older people. The Mayo Clinic website states that upper back arthritis commonly affects people ages 55 and over. The condition consists of general wear and tear on the discs in the neck and affects the neck and upper back area. Upper back arthritis can cause compression on the nerves and lead to the formation of bone spurs in the upper spinal area.

Symptoms

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, pain from upper back arthritis varies. Everyday actions can worsen symptoms, such as driving or reading a book. The symptoms of upper back arthritis include difficulty walking, pain in the neck, shoulder and arm pain, tingling and numbness in hands, arms, legs and feet, difficulty in coordination, headaches and muscle spasms in the neck and shoulder area.

Causes

The predominant cause of upper back arthritis is age. The discs in the spine degenerate over time from loss of elasticity and lack of water content. As a result, the discs in the spinal cord reorganize themselves as they lose space and height. Eventually, cartilage degeneration can result in bone rubbing on bone, causing pain, tingling and numbness.

Risk Factors

Wear and tear on the spine is the main risk factor for developing upper back arthritis. However, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website advises that smoking, depression, anxiety, car accidents, work injuries and genetics also can increase the risk of upper back arthritis. Looking up or down for long periods increases the risk of developing upper back arthritis, too.

Types of Treatment

You can treat many forms of upper back arthritis with nonsurgical options such as physical therapy, medication, steroid injections, massage and hot and cold therapy. Surgery is rarely necessary for the treatment of upper back arthritis. Consult a medical practitioner for advice on the most suitable type of treatment for you.

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