Re: arthritis in neck/headaches/itchy ear & scalp
All of her symptoms could be attributed to her neck. Osteoarthritis in the cervical spine, if high enough up, can cause peripheral neuropathy in the nerves going to the scalp and side of the neck. Basically irritates the nerves and they send signals that feel like a prickling sensation that makes you itch.
And yes, the headaches are very common with neck issues. The cough may be from bone spurs on the spine jutting out toward the throat and causing that irritation. She may also feel it swallowing.
Does she have any problems with numbness or that tingling/prickling sensation in her feet or legs? If bone spurs start to grow into the spinal cord, it can cause problems all the way down to the toes. I had that and it made my toes numb and made it hard to walk....my thighs just didn't want to move forward. It also made me drop a lot of things....a syndrome known as "clumsy hand syndrome".
Unfortunately, the anti-inflammatory is about the best they can do. Nothing really stops OA. If she's in a lot of pain, she'd have to talk to her doc as elderly patients don't do well with a lot of pain drugs. The only real treatment is surgery and a cervical fusion is probably not good for her at her age. But if she has increasing trouble, then ask about getting a cervical MRI and seeing a spine surgeon.
Cervical spondylosis(arthritis in the neck) is pretty common and treatable at younger ages but at 86, I'm not sure what they'd do. I know my hospital just featured a lady(in their newsletter) who is 106 and her battle with spine problems and how she still takes care of herself so I guess some places are pretty good at treating the elderly. So if she's in good shape, then see about getting it fixed if she's up to it. But step #1 would be an MRI to see how extensive it is.
good luck and let us know how she does......................Jenny