The first person to ever use the metaphor “a pain in the neck” truly captured the irritation caused by the common condition. Whether your neck pain has slowly built up and made itself known over time or arisen acutely as a result of an injury or sleeping in the wrong position, when you’re experiencing neck pain you are miserable.
Neck pain can range in intensity from merely uncomfortable to excruciating, and it can be fleeting or chronic. The neck is uniquely vulnerable to injury. It is constructed in a way that makes it extremely flexible, and when you combine its ability to move with the burden of constantly supporting the 10-pound weight of your head, it is easy to see how easily things can go wrong. The structure of the cervical spine’s anatomy makes it highly susceptible to injury.
Though the most common source of neck pain is the type of traumatic injury that occurs in auto accidents, falls, sports incidents or diving, it can also arise from degenerative diseases such as osteoporosis or arthritis, and from more mild movements that result from over-flexion or over-extension of the spinal cord or damage to the muscles, tendons or ligaments that support the neck. Men are more likely to suffer neck pain than women are.
The various conditions that can cause neck pain include:
- Herniated disk in the cervical spine
- Injuries to the supporting structures (ligaments, tendons, muscles)
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Cervical disk degeneration
- Congenital abnormalities
Neck pain can only be effectively treated once its cause has been identified. Your physician will begin by asking you about the history of your discomfort. They will conduct a physical examination to determine how much strength you have in your neck muscles and to examine various reflexes, your range of motion and the degree of tenderness that you are feeling.
Among the things that they will be looking for are whether there are signs of nerve compression and, if so, what impact it is having on your movement and sensation. They will want to know whether the pain you’re experiencing is sharp, burning, tingling or tender, whether you are feeling stiffness and if so when, and whether you are having spasms of pain or whether it is constant.
They will also ask about any other symptoms you might be having, with particular attention paid to whether you have noticed any associated weakness in your extremities or any headaches or back pain.
Once the physician has completed a medical history and physical exam, they will probably request that additional diagnostic studies be done. These will likely include:
- Blood work to determine whether any inflammatory markers are present
- X-Ray to view the bones
- MRI to provide detail of other internal structures, including ligaments and muscle
- CT to provide more detail of the bones and muscles
- Electromyogram to determine whether there is a loss of nerve function
Treatment for neck pain can include rest, medication administered orally or by injection, physical therapy or massage, exercise, and surgery. To determine the best course of action for you, contact our office today to set up a time for a consultation.