Neck pain is a common but treatable orthopedic condition. Here’s what you need to know about finding relief.
If you’re like most people, you’ve probably experienced neck pain at some point in your life. In most cases, it’s nothing serious and usually disappears in a few days with at-home remedies and rest. Yet if the pain persists for a week or more and is quite severe, you should consult an orthopedist to go over a treatment plan.
Why Does Your Neck Hurt?
Between the skull and the upper torso is the cervical spine, or neck. Within the neck are seven vertebrae cushioned by discs. Ligaments and muscles attach to the discs and give it its ability to rotate in several directions. Damage or strain to any part of the neck can cause pain, which is typically treatable.
Often, neck pain results from pulling or continually stressing the muscles in the cervical spine region beyond their normal range. This may occur while working out, lifting a heavy item, hunching over a computer all day, or sleeping in an awkward position.
If you strain your neck, you’ll likely experience a wide range of symptoms, starting with a dull ache or a sharp pain, stiffness, a headache, or spasms. In instances of mild neck pain, a program of icing and heat therapy, avoiding strenuous activities for several days, over-the-counter pain medication, and improving your posture can clear up any discomfort. Purchasing a pillow that supports your neck also helps put your cervical spine in proper alignment, therefore reducing the chance of pain. Something as simple as not squeezing a phone between your neck and shoulder can improve neck pain, as well.
More serious neck pain may be due to an injury from a car accident or fall, an abrupt jerking of the head (whiplash), or a sports-related trauma. If you’ve suffered a severe neck injury, you should consult a doctor immediately for diagnosis and treatment. It could be that you’ve damaged a vertebrae or torn a ligament.
Neck pain may also be attributed to an orthopedic disorder. Discs in the neck can degenerate from osteoarthritis (medically termed cervical spondylosis) or a rupture (a herniated disc), allowing the bones of the neck to rub together and cause intense pain. The spinal canal of the neck may narrow, a condition known as cervical spinal stenosis, as the result of an injury, a congenital abnormality, or long-term wear and tear. Those conditions can lead to cervical radiculopathy, commonly referred to as a pinched nerve in the neck.
How to Treat Neck Pain
Pain that lingers more than a week should be evaluated by an orthopedist. Tests to confirm an exact diagnosis would include an X-ray, MRI, or an electromyography to assess the status of the muscles and nerves in the neck.
Rarely does neck pain require surgery. If your discomfort is due to an injury or orthopedic condition, conservative, non-surgical treatments under the guidance of a physical therapist will likely alleviate the discomfort. Commonly used therapies for persistent neck pain consist of physical therapy to strengthen the muscles around the neck and increase mobility, massages done by a physical therapist to relax and boost blood flow to the muscles, and cervical corticosteroid injections to reduce chronic pain.
Your doctor may also perform a cervical radiofrequency ablation during which a needle is inserted near the cervical nerve roots. The needle emits a radiofrequency wave that blocks the nerve roots from sending pain signals.
A neck brace may also be prescribed. However, this should only be worn with a doctor’s recommendation. If the collar is not fitted properly, it could exacerbate your symptoms.
Tired of Neck Pain?
Neck pain is a common orthopedic complaint, but you don’t have to live with it. The physicians and physical therapists at New York Bone & Joint Specialists employ top-of-the-line diagnostic tools to identify what’s causing your neck pain. From there, we work you through a wide spectrum of treatment options available to eliminate your discomfort. Contact us today for an appointment.