Did you know? More than 5 million people search in GOOGLE for “neck pain treatment” every month? It has become one of the most common ailments people experience, and a common reason why patients seek medical attention. Here’s all you need to know about “neck pain.
What Is Neck Pain?
Your neck is a combination of nerves, discs, bones, & muscles. It provides support and mobility to your head. The cervical discs work like a shock absorber between the vertebral bones. Any factor that alters the functions such as pressure on discs, inflammation or injury results in neck pain or stiffness.
Usually, neck pain subsides within a few days or weeks, but if the pain lasts longer for months, it might be a signal of an underlying medical condition and it needs to be addressed by a spine specialist as soon as possible. Early medical intervention is necessary in some cases for better results.
Neck pain is classified into three different types based on duration:
Acute Neck Pain – Pain that persists less than 4 weeks.
Subacute Neck Pain – Pain that persists between 4 to 12 weeks.
Chronic Neck Pain – Pain that persists more than 3 months.
Symptoms Of Neck Pain
If you suffer from neck pain, you may experience one or more following symptoms.
- Axial pain in your cervical area, and sometimes the pain extends to your shoulders.
- Stiff neck
- Sharp pain localized to one spot that feels like it is stabbing or stinging.
- General soreness in the region of the neck.
- Muscle spasms
- Limited motion of your head
- Cervical radiculopathy
Some other symptoms include a feeling of pins and needles, leg weakness, and loss of balance while walking. If neck pain progresses, it interferes with your daily activities, such as working in front of a computer, driving and also becomes difficult to sleep.
Causes Of Neck Pain
Your neck bears the weight of your head, so it is vulnerable to certain conditions that cause neck pain and restrict motion. In most of the cases, neck pain might not be a serious condition and goes away within a few days. But in some cases, it can be serious. Here are some of the common causes of neck pain.
Muscle strains and ligament sprains caused due to overuse or overextension, such as from:
- Poor posture
- Sleeping in an awkward position
- Repetitive motions
- Jerking motions
Nerve compressions such as herniated disks or bone spurs also cause neck pain.
Spinal degeneration due to wear-and-tear conditions over time can also lead to neck pain. It is also called cervical spondylosis. Some other cervical conditions include:
- Cervical degenerative disc disease
- Cervical osteoarthritis
- Cervical herniated disc
Some other underlying conditions that cause neck pain include:
- Spinal stenosis
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Emotional stress
- Myofascial pain syndrome
- Spinal tumours
Treatment For Neck Pain
Most of the neck pain conditions can be treated with the help of conventional methods under the guidance of a spine doctor. The main aim of the treatment is to treat underlying conditions that cause neck pain.
Medication – Over-the-counter (OTC) medications such as NSAIDs are tried initially for neck pain to ease your pain. Take medications prescribed by your doctor only.
Physical therapy – It is performed by an experienced physical therapist. He helps you to maintain proper posture techniques and neck-strengthening exercises.
Heat And Cold Therapy – Ice packs or heat packs are used to reduce inflammation.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) – the procedure involves placing electrodes near the painful areas and delivering small electrical impulses to relieve from pain.
Traction – the procedure uses weights or pulleys to stretch your spinal vertebrae and muscles to relieve from pain.
Immobilization – Neck braces or a soft collar is used to provide support to your neck which may help to relieve pressure and eases pain.
Alternative Neck Pain Treatments
The below alternative treatments have less scientific proofs, but many people said that they have benefited from them for treating neck pain.
- Massage therapy to alleviate muscle tension and spasms. It reduces neck pain and promotes relaxation.
- Practising meditation helps to relax your body and reduce pain.
- Chiropractic treatment – A chiropractor might adjust your spine to improve range of motion and to reduce pain.
Surgery & Other Neck Pain Treatments
Steroid Injections: For some people, injections like a cervical epidural steroid injection and trigger point injection are given to provide relief from pain.
Radiofrequency Ablation(RFA) is also an effective procedure to treat neck pain caused due to certain conditions.
Surgery – Surgery is very rare unless it is serious such as to treat a squeezed or pinched nerve, damaged disc, stabilizing the cervical spine etc. A spine surgeon prefers surgery only when a clear cause is diagnosed.
Surgery includes procedures like ACDF ( anterior cervical discectomy and fusion), Cervical laminectomy / Laminoplasty and some times artificial cervical disc replacement etc.
Dr. Surya Prakash. A renowned spine surgeon in Hyderabad, says “if you suffer from neck pain that persists for more than a week which is accompanied with other symptoms consult a doctor immediately.” He has more than two decades of experience in treating various spine problems.