Your back and neck consist of small bones we call vertebrae. These form a spinal column, support the head, and protect the spinal cord. Neck pain starts in the neck and gets associated with radiating pain down the arms. Neck pain is caused by a number of disorders that may involve tissues in the neck, bones, nerves, joints, or muscles. Also known as cervical pain, neck pain can be quite uncomfortable. If you continue to have neck pain for three months or more, you’re suffering from chronic neck pain. Neck pain can have a huge impact on one’s mental health too. Some of the most common conditions causing neck pain include degenerative disc disease, cervical spondylosis, poor posture, whiplash, and neck injury.
Pain and stiffness in the middle or either side of your neck. Also, the pain can extend to the shoulder or upper chest. Following symptoms can be associated with neck pain:
- Weakness in the arms
- Difficulty in balance and walking
- Tension headaches
- Pain in the arm
- Tingling in hands
- Clicking and grating noises
- Numbness in the arm or forearm
- Neck muscle stiffness
- Dizziness and blackouts
- Muscle spasms
- Loss of neck mobility
Causes of the Neck Pain
Neck pain is usually common in people over the age of 50. Causes of the pain vary. Speaking of – here are some of the most common causes of neck pain so far:
Injury or accidents: Neck injuries are caused when your head is pushed backward or forward. The rapid movement of the neck causes pain and stiffness.
Sports Injury: Sometimes, neck pain is a result of the unnatural movement of the neck as a result of sports injury.
Nerve Compression: If a nerve gets compressed, it can lead to pain that moves in the head, down the arms, and behind the eyes.
Sleeping awkwardly: A sleeping position can also lead to neck pain.
Stress: If you’re stressed, you are more likely to have your muscles clenched, leading to a stiff and painful neck.
Arthritis: Arthritis, particularly the ones in inflammatory forms, can lead to neck pain.
Weight: Extra pounds of the body can be a cause of stress on the spine and imbalance of the spine, leading to pain in the neck.
Different Types of Neck Pain
There are some commonly known types of neck pain. Some people experience one type, and others experience a combination.
Mechanical Neck Pain: It is a pain in the spine and associated structures like muscles, bones, and cartilage.
Central Neuropathic Pain: This pain is usually a result of stroke, spinal cord injury, or multiple sclerosis. It can also be a result of an injury to one’s central nervous system.
Neuropathic Neck Pain: This type of neck pain comes from a herniated disc pressing against a nearby nerve or another nerve compression.
Diagnosis of Neck Pain
Most of the neck problems are diagnosed depending on the symptoms with simple examinations. However, special tests may be recommended if required. It is considered essential to identify the cause of pain as it helps design an effective treatment.
To assess the condition of your neck pain, your healthcare service provider will:
- I prefer taking a look at your medical history before giving a treatment plan
- Ask questions about the initial days of pain, the activity that preceded the pain, and if the pain travels to other parts of the body
- Perform a physical examination
- Assess if the pain is associated with muscles, ligaments, and joints
- Observe your posture
- Check the curvature of your muscle spasms, spine, and vertebral alignment
- Perform diagnostic testing
- Include neurological exam to test muscle strength and motor challenges
- Conduct a nerve conduction study
Some patients will have to undergo imaging studies if physical therapy and medication turn out to be ineffective. Some of the tests conducted may include:
- Computed Tomography Scan (CT or CAT scan)
- Nerve Root Block
- Nerve Conduction Studies (NCS)
- Electromyography (EMG)
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
If you are experiencing chronic pain, it’s essential to reach out for medical assistance. A treatment strategy depends on the causes of neck pain. Although neck pain can be quite painful, nonsurgical treatments are known to have a huge impact on relieving its symptoms. Some of the nonsurgical treatments may include:
- Prescription and over-the-counter medications
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications
- Topical treatments
- Injections of pain-relieving medicines
- Regenerative treatments
- A cervical collar to provide support and limit the motion of one’s neck
Therapies for Neck pain
Some of the most common therapies to cure neck pain include:
- Herbal remedies
- Yoga and Pilates
- Chiropractic care
- Physical therapy
Do you need surgical treatment for neck pain?
Generally, patients with neck pain get their symptoms relieved with nonsurgical treatments. However, a very small percentage of patients require surgical treatment. A neurological emergency can be the reason you have to go for cervical spine surgery. The reasons why you might need surgery can be:
Ineffectiveness of nonsurgical treatment: If medication or a combination of medication, physical therapies, and exercises don’t help.
Pain keeps increasing: If your pain starts worsening as a result of a pinched nerve in the neck and causes numbness and weakness in shoulders and arms.
Compressed Spinal Cord: Neck conditions or injuries can cause pressure on the spinal cord, and you keep experiencing pain, weakness, and stiffness.
Progressive Neurological symptoms: If you continue to have weakness and numbness or trouble while walking.
Generally, surgical procedures are performed for degenerative disc diseases, traumas, and spinal instability. Such conditions are responsible for putting pressure on one’s spinal cord, and surgery can help relieve its symptoms.
Types of Surgeries for neck pain
The two common cervical surgeries performed to relieve neck pains are decompression and stabilization. Decompression procedures include discectomy, corpectomy, or foraminotomy.
Reducing chronic neck pain in everyday life
You can follow the following simple strategies to reduce the neck and improve your health:
- Stay active and do exercise
- Tell your healthcare providers about how you feel
- Get enough sleep because it plays a vital role in coping the chronic neck pain