What Is Uncovertebral Hypertrophy?

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Uncovertebral hypertrophy is the enlargement of small synovial joints found in the upper surfaces of the bodies of the lower cervical vertebrae and the inferior surface of the superior vertebral body. The enlargement of these neck joints and pain are a common symptoms of degenerative neck disease.

Uncovertebral joints are composed of cartilaginous material and bone. As a person ages, the cartilage between the uncovertebral joints narrows, sometimes causing bony overgrowth between the joints and contributing to foraminal narrowing. Early in degenerative disc disease, the nerve roots, which pass through a portion of the neural foramina, aren’t affected by this bony overgrowth, but with passage of time and compression of the nerve roots, pain is the end result.

Degenerative changes of the neck joints are a normal process of aging due to everyday wear-and-tear movements of the neck. There are seven cervical vertebrae in the neck, and each is separated from the next by a disc of cartilage. These discs are the shock absorbers of the neck and become less efficient as a person ages.

Neck and back pain are a major health problem, according to Medscape. It is estimated that 75 percent of people experience some type of neck or back pain in their life. Degenerative disc disease can’t be prevented through diet or exercise, but symptoms can be managed and treated through medications, physical therapy and surgery.