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What is degenerative arthritis of the neck?

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Degenerative arthritis of the neck, called cervical spondylosis, is the degeneration of the joints in the neck, states the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. It results from a loss of water content, a normal part of the aging process, causing a collapse of the space between cervical discs.

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The loss of water also causes disks in the neck to weaken and flatten, states AAOS, and the cartilage between discs begins to wear away. As a response, new bone may grow (called bone spurs), which can pinch the area through which the nerves travel, causing pain, states AAOS. Thickening of the bones may also occur, according to Physio Advisor, causing the disks to rub and further wearing away the joints.

According to the AAOS, a majority of people over the age of 60 have neck arthritis. The condition can also result from overuse, injury or trauma, states Physio Advisor. Symptoms include mild to severe pain, stiffness that is worse with activity and improves with rest, and grinding and popping sensations in the neck, states the AAOS. Other symptoms include neck and shoulder muscle spasms, as well as numbness and weakness in arms, hands and fingers; trouble walking and loss of balance; and weakness in the legs.

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