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Physical Therapy for Neck Arthritis – Treatment, Information, Exercises, and More

Cervical spondylosis can be a real pain in the neck — literally. 

Have you been experiencing neck pain, headaches, and muscle spasms in your neck and back?

Maybe you’ve been looking for information on how to get relief from the discomfort that comes with neck arthritis. 

You’re not alone.

Neck arthritis is one of the most common forms of arthritis among adults and many of them are looking for relief, just like you. 

Look no further, we’ll review everything you need to know about neck arthritis, from symptoms and treatment options to exercises that can help.

What is Neck Arthritis?

More than 85% of people over the age of 60 experience neck arthritis — also referred to as cervical spondylosis

Cervical spondylosis affects the spinal disks in your neck.

Over time, the cartilage in your neck joints begins to break down.

Just as in other forms of arthritis throughout the rest of the body, neck arthritis is the age-related wear-and-tear (degeneration) of bones, joints, and discs in your neck.

What Causes Neck Arthritis?

The human head weighs roughly as much as a ten-pound bowling ball. It’s no surprise that the stress of supporting our heads can cause wear-and-tear on the discs and joints in our necks. 

These changes occur in almost everyone, even if a person has no symptoms at all. In fact, nearly half of all middle-aged and older people have worn discs and joints that do not cause any painful symptoms. 

Below are some of the most common risk factors. 


As you age, especially after age 50, wear-and-tear begins to happen in a number of ways: 

  • The discs between the vertebrae start to become less spongy. This spongy material acts as a cushion that absorbs shocks between vertebrae. As the discs become less spongy, they provide less of a cushion
  • Ligaments and bones begin to get thicker infringing on the space of the spinal canal. 

Occupation or Hobbies

People who work in certain occupations — jobs that require repetitive neck movement or overhead work…


People who play certain sports

Are more likely to have neck arthritis due to added stress on the neck.

Neck Arthritis Symptoms

For many, neck arthritis can be a real pain in the neck — others may not experience any symptoms at all. 

Some of the most common neck arthritis symptoms include: 

  • Neck stiffness
  • Pain in the shoulder or arms
  • Neck pain
  • Headaches that start in your neck
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Irritability 
  • Fatigue
  • Myelopathy
  • Numbness in your arm or hand
  • Unable to turn the head or bend the neck
  • Radiculopathy
  • Grinding noise or sensation when turning the neck 

When cervical spondylosis results in myelopathy, other symptoms can occur, like: 

  • Lack of coordination
  • Difficulty walking
  • Muscle spasms
  • Loss of bowel and bladder control 
  • Abnormal reflexes
  • Tingling, numbness, or weakness in the arms, hands, legs, or feet

Dealing with symptoms of neck arthritis can be frustrating and, in severe cases, debilitating. 

Thankfully, there are a number of treatment options available to help manage neck arthritis symptoms.

Neck Arthritis Treatment

Most cases of neck arthritis can be helped by conventional, non-surgical treatments, but in severe cases, medical intervention may be necessary. 

Neck Arthritis Treatment: Conservative

Conservative and natural care helps many neck arthritis sufferers control their pain and slow the progression of the disease. Examples of natural treatments are: 

  • Activity modification — stretching before certain exercises and activities, and participating for shorter periods of time
  • Yoga — relieves neck tension and stress by reducing tension
  • Herbal remedies — turmeric, for example, is considered an anti-inflammatory and may help reduce neck pain related to arthritis. 
  • Physical therapy — therapists help patients learn exercises that improve posture and strengthen the neck
  • Pain relievers — naproxen and ibuprofen help relieve inflammation and alleviate pain
  • Warm baths — these can soothe achy joints and relax your muscles
  • Ice therapy — ice is known to reduce inflammation, swelling, and pain
  • Massage — this may provide temporary relief

Neck Arthritis Treatment: Medical Intervention

In cases of neck arthritis where symptoms do not improve with natural treatments, non-natural, medical intervention, may be necessary. 

Steroid-Based Injections

In some cases, a doctor may prescribe a steroid-based injection, which is a mix of corticosteroids and a local anesthetic. 

These injections are used to reduce inflammation in the spinal canal and reduce symptoms of neck arthritis. 


Your doctor may determine that you need surgery for your neck arthritis if:

  1. You’ve been diagnosed with cervical radiculopathy — where a spinal nerve is being pinched by a herniated disk.
  2. You’ve been diagnosed with cervical spondylotic myelopathy — your spinal cord is being compressed. 

Patients who have neurologic symptoms, like arm weakness, numbness, or falling, are more likely to see symptoms improve after having surgery.

Neck Arthritis Physical Therapy – Will PT Help?

You’ve come here looking for help with your neck arthritis, and by now you probably want to know if physical therapy can help.

The answer is yes, physical therapy can help with neck arthritis.

When you first visit a physical therapist, you’ll complete an evaluation or consultation.

During this evaluation, your therapist will see how well you can move your neck, ask what symptoms you have, and assess joint function in your neck and back. 

After the initial assessment, your physical therapist will work with you to create a plan to alleviate neck arthritis symptoms.

Best Neck Arthritis Exercises

If you are suffering from symptoms of neck arthritis, your physical therapist may recommend some common exercises to help you find relief. Some of these may include: 

Chin Tucks

Chin tucks are one of the most effective exercises for combating neck pain. 

They help strengthen the muscles that pull your head back into alignment over your shoulders.  

Shoulder Rolls

Shoulder rolls are commonly recommended to help strengthen the muscles that support your neck. 

They are also a great exercise to help keep your shoulders and neck joint fluid. 

Wall Push-Ups

Normal push-ups can put a lot of strain on your neck muscles — which isn’t ideal when trying to treat neck arthritis. 

Instead, many therapists recommend doing wall push-ups which still strengthen the muscles of the shoulders and support your neck muscles.

How In Motion O.C. Can Help With Neck Arthritis

In Motion O.C. understands just how frustrating it can be to live with symptoms of neck arthritis — and we don’t want you to have to deal with the symptoms any longer. 

We’ve helped dozens of people overcome their symptoms of neck arthritis and we’d love to help you, too. 

As the number one physical therapist in the country on Yelp! and Google, we are committed to providing the best possible care to each and every person that walks through our doors. 

*This information about physical therapy for neck arthritis was reviewed by Dr Natalie Thomas, PT, DPT. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us here.

In Motion O.C.