How do you treat cervical DJD?

Answered by Jarrod Smith

Cervical degenerative joint disease (DJD) is a common condition that affects the joints and discs in the neck. While there is no cure for DJD, there are various treatment options available to help manage the symptoms and improve the quality of life for those affected. In this response, I will discuss some of the treatment approaches commonly used for cervical DJD.

1. Exercise and Physical Therapy: One of the mainstays of non-surgical treatment for cervical DJD is exercise and physical therapy. These interventions aim to strengthen the muscles supporting the neck, improve flexibility, and promote better posture. Physical therapists can guide patients through specific exercises and stretches tailored to their individual needs. These exercises may include neck range of motion exercises, strengthening exercises for the neck and upper back muscles, as well as postural exercises to improve alignment and reduce stress on the cervical spine.

2. Manual Manipulation: Manual manipulation, also known as spinal manipulation or chiropractic adjustment, is another treatment option for cervical DJD. This technique involves applying controlled force to the joints of the cervical spine to improve range of motion and alleviate pain. Chiropractors and other qualified healthcare professionals are trained to perform these adjustments safely. It is important to note that manual manipulation may not be suitable for everyone, and it is essential to consult with a healthcare provider before undergoing this treatment.

3. Medications: Medications can be prescribed to manage pain and inflammation associated with cervical DJD. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are commonly recommended to reduce pain and swelling. Muscle relaxants may be prescribed to alleviate muscle spasms in the neck and upper back. Additionally, analgesics or pain relievers can be used for temporary relief. It is crucial to follow the healthcare provider’s instructions and be aware of potential side effects or drug interactions.

4. Heat and Cold Therapy: Applying heat or cold to the affected area can help reduce pain and inflammation. Heat therapy, such as using a heating pad or taking warm showers, can relax tense muscles and improve blood circulation. Cold therapy, such as using ice packs or cold compresses, can help numb the area and reduce swelling. Alternating between heat and cold therapy may provide additional relief.

5. Posture and Ergonomic Modifications: Poor posture and improper ergonomics can contribute to neck pain and worsen cervical DJD symptoms. Making simple modifications to daily activities and workspace can have a significant impact. Maintaining good posture, using supportive pillows while sleeping, using ergonomic chairs and desks, and taking frequent breaks during prolonged sitting can help alleviate strain on the cervical spine.

6. Assistive Devices: In some cases, healthcare providers may recommend the use of assistive devices to support the neck and reduce strain. Cervical collars or neck braces can provide stability and limit motion, allowing the injured tissues to heal. However, it is important to use these devices under the guidance of a healthcare professional to prevent muscle weakness or dependency.

7. Lifestyle Modifications: Making certain lifestyle changes can also contribute to the management of cervical DJD. Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce stress on the cervical spine. Engaging in regular physical activity, such as low-impact exercises or swimming, can improve overall strength and flexibility. Avoiding activities that exacerbate symptoms, such as heavy lifting or repetitive neck movements, can also be beneficial.

It is important to note that the effectiveness of these treatment options may vary depending on the individual and the severity of the condition. A comprehensive treatment plan should be tailored to the specific needs and preferences of the patient. Consulting with a healthcare professional, such as a physical therapist, chiropractor, or orthopedic specialist, can help determine the most appropriate treatment approach for cervical DJD.