What is Neck Pain?
Neck pain is one of the most common reasons to seek help from experts in pain relief. It can occur at any age. The cervical spine is the name for the seven vertebrae that make up the neck. They work with nerves, muscles, ligaments, and tendons to provide stability and motion. A lot of neck pain is caused by simple muscle strain that will usually correct on its own. However, neck pain that is severe or lasts more than three months calls for intervention.
What Causes Neck Pain?
Neck pain can come from a number of sources. The most common ones include:
• Muscle strains or tears
• Tears or strains to the ligaments
• Disc-related issues – These issues can include herniated or bulging discs
• Whiplash – This is the most common injury after a motor vehicle accident
• Myofascial syndrome
• Facet joint syndrome
• Spinal stenosis affecting the cervical vertebrae
• DISH syndrome
• Radiculopathy in the cervical nerve root
When neck pain is associated with fever, a recent infection, or unexplained weight loss, it is important to seek medical care immediately, as these can be signs of more serious conditions.
There are a number of risk factors that make neck pain more likely. These include being over 50 years of age, engaging in heavy physical work, or contact sports, and a history of injury or arthritis. Poor posture and a sedentary lifestyle also increase the risk of neck pain.
Symptoms of Neck Pain
The symptoms of neck pain will depend on its cause. In some cases, the pain will be sharp and may get worse when you attempt to turn your head or look up or down. In others, it is a persistent ache.
Neck pain may be accompanied by stiffness and a reduced range of movement. Weakness or a loss of sensation may also occur. Neck pain, in some cases, is also accompanied by headache or pain or weakness that also involves your arms.
Diagnosing Neck Pain
A diagnosis of the cause of your neck pain will start with a medical history and a physical exam. We’ll assess your range of movement, your pain levels, and what triggers your pain.
In addition, we’ll most likely include some diagnostic tests. Discography and selective nerve root blocks can help us pinpoint the source of your pain. X-rays, MRIs, and bone scans can also help us find the cause of your neck pain, so we can determine a course of treatment.
Neck Pain Treatment
The right treatment will depend on the cause of the pain that you are experiencing. Treatments can include:
• Medication – NSAIDs, acetaminophen, and muscle relaxants can also reduce pain. Anticonvulsants can help calm nerves to reduce pain.
• Tricyclic antidepressants can also calm nerves and relieve neuropathic neck pain.
• High dose, fast-taper courses of steroids can speed healing when the cause of your pain is nerve root impingement.
• Epidural steroids can deliver pain relief directly to the pain source.
• Medial branch blocks use electrical energy to cauterize nerves and prevent them from sending or receiving pain signals. It can provide relief in cases of chronic neck pain.
• Spinal cord stimulation involves implanting a device that interrupts pain signals with small pulses of electricity.
• Chiropractic care can relieve pressure and reduce pain.
• Massage can relax muscles and relieve pain when muscle tension is contributing to pain.