Some Facts About The Uncovertebral Joint
The uncovertebral joint is located in the cervical spine, which is the part of the spine directly beneath the skull and which runs down the neck to the shoulder area. The cervical spine is made up of the first 7 vertebrae in the spinal column. These vertebrae, the cervical vertebrae are referred to as C1 through C7, with C1 being the vertebra closest to the skull and C7 being the vertebra closes to the thoracic part of the spine, which runs down the upper back.
The uncovertebral joint is an articulated joint made which includes vertebrae C3 through C7, the five lower cervical vertebrae. Also called Luschka's joint, the uncovertebral joint is the joint primarily responsible for allowing up and down movements of the neck, as well as partial rotation. Consequently, a problem with the uncovertebral joint will usually manifests itself with stiffness, impeded movement, or pain in the back of the neck.
Cartilaginous And Synovial Joints - There are three kinds of joints in the body, two of which allow movement, and a third kind, the joints in the skull and the pelvis, which do not, as they merely hold bone structure together. Cartilaginous joints are those which connect two bones with cartilage. These joints allow only limited movement. The joints of the rib cage as an example, are cartilaginous joints. Synovial joints are the joints we are most familiar with, the ones which allow significant movement. Within these joints are bursa sacs which contain synovial fluid which helps to lubricate the joints.
The uncovertebral joint combines features of both the cartilaginous and synovial joint, with cartilage serving to keep the vertebrae in place, while synovial fluid allows for the degree of movement we experience in our neck.
The two most common causes of uncovertebral joint problems are trauma, which may result in slippage or fracture of a vertebral disk, or disc degeneration which accompanies a degenerative disease of the spine. The large range of motion the uncovertebral joint offers, relative to the rest of the spinal column, plus the fact that it is anatomically somewhat complex, makes the joint a prime candidate for degenerative problems.
Degenerative Disorders - A degenerative disorder of the spinal column is not all that uncommon, and many will experience to some degree in their later years, although it may not necessarily be bothersome. The most common type of degenerative disease affecting the cervical spine and the uncovertebral joint is osteoarthritis, the most common of all types of arthritis.
Another type of degenerative disorder, again one which tends to be age related is degenerative nuclear disease, where the height of the intervertebral discs begins to decrease, placing stress on the vertebrae and altering bone growth. This type of degenerative disease however tends to be more prevalent in the thoracic or lumbar spine in the upper and lower back, than in the cervical spine. There are other types of degenerative disorders as well, any one of which may cause crystal-like deposits on the vertebrae or in the joints, soft tissue calcification, bone and joint erosion, inflammation, and occasionally, infection.
Symptoms - As mentioned above, when one is suffering from an uncovertebral joint disorder of some type, the most common symptom will be neck pain. In some instances pain may be felt in the areas of the shoulder blades as well, particularly along the back of the shoulder blades. Sometimes the pain may radiate to the arms, accompanied by arm weakness and a loss of dexterity in the fingers, though this is rather rare. An even more rare symptom of an uncovertebral joint problem is difficulty in walking. Arm and leg problems are usually the result of bone degeneration or tissue calcification which places pressure on nerves in the spinal cord.