Neck pain can have many causes, ranging from acute problems such as muscle strain and whiplash to conditions that develop over time such as cervical spondylosis (osteoarthritis of the neck) and myofascial pain syndrome. Nerve compression, infections, bone fractures, and spinal cord conditions are also possible causes of neck pain.
A detailed medical history is first required to diagnose neck pain. Doctors ask about the location, intensity, and quality of pain. Whether your pain is mild or severe, burning or sharp. Doctors then do a physical examination, which may be followed by tests. It is important to get to the root of your neck pain so that you can proceed with an appropriate and effective treatment plan. Treatment plans depend on the cause of the condition.
The neck is made up of several bones, ligaments, discs, muscles, and nerves that make up the upper part of the spinal cord. Damage or disease to any of these structures can lead to neck pain.
The initial pain of neck strain is often described as sharp or knife-like. As time goes on, the pain often becomes painful and throbbing. In addition to pain, other symptoms of neck strain include stiffness and muscle spasms.
Whiplash occurs when an external force causes the neck to suddenly hyperextend (extreme neck and back arch), followed by rapid hyperflexion (extreme forward bending).
In addition to neck pain that ranges from mild to severe, other symptoms of whiplash include :-
Bone growths (osteophytes) can occur as the neck cartilage continues to wear away. These take up space and can eventually put pressure on nerves going down the spine. Compressed nerves can cause numbness, tingling and electrical sensations in the arms and shoulders.
Overall, cervical spondylosis is a very common condition, especially among middle-aged and older people. Factors other than age that increase the risk of developing cervical spondylosis include the following :-
Pressing (or even touching) a trigger point not only causes pain locally, but also in other areas like the shoulder, upper back, or back of the head.
Bruising and swelling may also appear along with severe neck pain that radiates to the shoulders and arms. The most worrisome consequence of a neck fracture is spinal cord injury, which can lead to paralysis and death.
Diffuse Idiopathic Skeletal Hyperostosis :- Diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis (DISH) occurs when the ligaments and tendons that run along the spine become calcified and hardened. Many DISH patients are asymptomatic, but often report severe pain and stiffness in the neck and back that worsen over time.
Cervical Discogenic Pain :- Cervical discogenic pain is caused by structural changes in one or more discs in the neck that act as cushions between the bones of the neck. This change in disc structure may be due to injury or more often as a result of the natural aging process.
Diagnosing the cause of neck pain is a difficult task. Even with the many tests and investigations available to healthcare providers today, it can be difficult to distinguish between possible causes.
To begin the diagnostic process, your doctor will first determine whether your neck pain is traumatic or non-traumatic. Neck pain after acute trauma is usually seen in the emergency room and requires more immediate treatment.
The different techniques for diagnosing neck pain are :-
Treatment of neck pain depends entirely on the underlying diagnosis, but often involves a combination of treatments such as medication and physical therapy.
Ice and Heat Therapy :- For neck strain, applying a cold pack to the affected area for 15-30 minutes, 4 times a day for the first 2-3 days after injury reduces inflammation and pain. Then apply moist heat (a warm bath or shower) to your neck to relax tight muscles.
Physical Therapy :- For neck strain and cervical radiculopathy, a physical therapist may perform certain exercises to relieve neck pain, strengthen neck muscles (with cervical traction), and improve neck mobility. Yes, in the case of cervical spondylosis, postural therapy and short-term wearing of a soft neck brace are recommended in addition to muscle stretching.
Complementary Therapies :- Complementary therapies may be used in combination with conventional medications and treatments to help relieve discomfort. For example, massage therapy, acupuncture, or biofeedback can help with neck tension. Trigger point injections can be used to treat myofascial pain.
Medications :- To diagnose musculoskeletal or nerve-related neck pain, your doctor may prescribe a variety of drugs, including muscle relaxants, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), Tylenol (acetaminophen), or, if the pain is severe, opioids.
Oral steroids (such as prednisone) or steroid injections (cortisone) may be recommended for the diagnosis of cervical radiculopathy or central spinal cord syndrome. Steroids not only relieve pain but also have anti-inflammatory properties.
To diagnose meningitis or a neck infection, antibiotics and/or antiviral or antifungal drugs are given intravenously (called intravenous administration).
Antiplatelet drugs (such as aspirin) or anticoagulants (heparin followed by coumadin (warfarin)) are used to treat cervical artery dissections followed by surgery unless contraindicated.
Surgery :- Surgery is not usually used to treat neck pain, but it may be needed in certain circumstances. For example, in persistent or severe cases of cervical radiculopathy, three surgeries are usually done :-
In addition, surgery (angioplasty with or without stenting) is required to repair severed carotid arteries. This type of surgery is usually performed by an interventional cardiologist or vascular surgeon.
For better treatment of neck pain visit Texas Specialty Clinic and seek healthcare from professionals, dial (469) 545-9983 to book an appointment.