Calcification of the uncovertebral joints?

by Barbara
(East Rutherford, NJ, USA)

Which fingers are affected?

Which fingers are affected?

I landed on your site after asking Google for help in understanding what an uncovertebral joint was. Why? I happen to be a physician, but not in orthopedics.

About a year ago, I had an X-ray of my C-spine while having a workup for some hand tingling and loss of hand muscle strength with pain in my upper back and shoulder. The report reads "calcification of the uncovertebral joints".

The neurologist I saw found no nerve conduction problems. So, can you explain how this fits into things? Is that part of permanent cartilage loss in these joints? or just "old" joints?

I am 68 yrs young! I learned a great deal from your site; I hope my foramen stay open enough for my nerves to pass through "unpinched".

Think I will do some exercises for my neck now which I was told to do every day for the rest of my life (have not).

Good evening Dr Barbara,
I'm honoured that you've approached a chiropractor for an answer to your conundrum. I too alas am on my 69th orbit of the Sun, three score and ten is just around the corner.

The reason I say that is because in one sense degenerative joint disease is simply, like grey hair, or in my case very little hair, a sign of aging.

There are two common causes.
1. A short leg that gave you a scoliosis; there's more stress on one side of the neck and degenerative change begins. If this is so, look at your children and grandchildren; sometimes a thin wedge in time, in the shoe can save nine years or more of misery.

2. An old whiplash injury that caused a spinal fixation in the lower neck; immobilisation arthritis set in due to the lack of refreshment of synovial fluid in the joints of Luschka. That is what chiropractic is all about.

Both are history and the past is set in concrete. Now I would like to suggest a diet rich in natural anti inflammatory compounds; for example the omega-3 in fatty fish and freshly ground flaxseed and the oleocanthal in extra virgin olive oil.

Then it's a bit of a ticklish clinical decision whether mobilisation or frank manipulation, or even an 'activator' that is commonly used by chiropractors, would be more effective. Start any exercise programme very gently; it can certainly worsen the situation.

Two things to look out for are Spurling's sign and a positive upper limb tension test. Both are to be found by using the site search function at Chiropractic Help. If either are positive in my book you can't simply ignore the symptoms and hope it will go away.

Also exactly which fingers are affected?

Weakness in the hand is usually C8 or T1.

A simple home traction device does wonders for some folk.

One last thought; when the tingling in your hand is bad, does raising your arm above your head bring relief, or increase the symptoms? The latter is suggestive of a thoracic outlet syndrome, often caused by a fixated first rib, or scalene muscle spasm.

I hope this contributes.


» Calcification of the uncovertebral joints?

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Interesting challenges of the day

1. Mr S is a 76 year old man with neck pain of some 9 months duration. Luckily, most of the discomfort is upper cervical which is only rarely arthritic; his lower cervical spine is a degenerative mess that I have left alone. After seven treatments his pain and stiffness is 50 percent better, and he is happy in the circumstances. He can sleep through the night now and that makes a huge difference.

2. Mr P is 32 year old man with very severe lower back pain radiating to the big toe which is 30 percent numb. He had an episode three weeks ago, took anti-inflammatories and was soon better as is typical of the medial disc herniation. But before it healed, after a trivia it came roaring back, much worse. The characteristic crossed sign was evident; sitting in a chair, straightening the right leg provoked severe left back pain and tingling in the leg. He is doing well.

3. Severe lower back pain is scary; just ask Mrs P. Just watching her get out of the car I she was in trouble; she had a slipped disc at L4 making her lean towards the opposite side; luckily she had no pain in the leg. Despite family pressure that this was far too severe for a chiropractor, she persevered. Within five days she was standing upright, and after two weeks almost pain-free. 

Despite a hectic job, she wisely took my advice and stayed home for what I call exercising bed rest.

4. Mr S has had lower back, groin and back of thigh and calf pain for fourth months.

He has a pincer deformity in the hip causing the stabs in the groin, and a degenerative facet causing the sciatica. Both are responding well to chiropractic and he is well pleased; sixty-five percent better after three treatments.

5. Mr T is a wise man; he has taken a warning TIA seriously and has lost 15 pounds, and has at least as much again to lose. A change to a low starch diet and half hour daily stroll has made the difference; but the walking is making his foot and back miserable. The expensive orthotic is hopeless; luckily his hips and back are fine, but he needs a simple heel lift; he has a short leg.

6. I too have had serious lower back issues, luckily fixed by my own chiropractor; so I too have to do my exercises, take care when lifting supers full of honey, gardening and using the chainsaw. Regaining the function of your spine is just as important as the pain.

7. My own granddaughter, only 7 is hypermobile giving her pelvic, knee and ankle issues. X-rays show a mildly dysplastic hip. Years ago we would have called it growing pains. She too regularly needs chiropractic care and luckily responds well. Increased range of motion is more difficult than too stiff in my opinion. Our care is for kids too.

8. This 65-year old lady is a serious gardener; every day she is bending, lifting and digging for 2 to 3 hours a day. It regularly catches her in the sacroiliac joint, so she has a treatment once a month that sorts it out. She does her lower back exercises faithfully.

9. This 88-year old lady is an inspiration; every day she is busy in the community. With a nasty scoliosis she manages very well with a chiropractic adjustment every six weeks and exercises faithfully done. 

10. Mr X is a 71-year old retired man who wants to continue with maintenance care every six to eight weeks; he had suffered from two years of lower back pain when he first came a few months ago. He has no discomfort now after 8 chiropractic treatments, but is aware that danger lurks.

11. Mrs C has been having severe headaches, and taking a lot of analgesics. It is a non-complicated upper cervical facet syndrome, and she is doing well.

12. Mr D is a 38-year old year man with chronic shoulder pain after a rotator cuff tear playing cricket. It responded well to treatment, but he knows he must do his exercises every day; for two years he could not sleep on that shoulder.

13. Mr D, a 71-year old man, has a severe ache in the shoulder and midback since working above his head. Trapped nerve tests are negative but he has advanced degenerative joints of Luschka; after just two treatments he is 50 percent better. Can we reach 90?

And so the day goes; chiropractors should not be treating the elderly most medical sites state but that is so much bunkum.

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