Neck Pain Overview – Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment Options
What Is Neck Pain?
One of the most common musculoskeletal complaints is neck pain, with approximately 40% of all adults experiencing cervical pain at one time or another throughout their life. The large number of patients reporting this kind of pain makes it challenging for doctors and pain specialists to determine the most effective treatment.
Conservative care is recommended and depending on symptom response, additional treatment may be needed.
By definition, neck pain is when the muscles within the neck become strained or sprained. The result of the strain is pain and restricted range of motion. Mobility may be difficult, especially if the strain is severe and muscles and ligaments are injured.
What Causes Neck Pain?
The main causes of neck pain are muscle strain and injury resulting in a disc tear or fracture. There are several other causes of neck pain from disease to overall wear-and-tear. Some of the main causes include:
- Muscle sprain or strain – Generally caused by a sudden and abrupt jerking movement that snaps the head backward and forward. This is commonly referred to as whiplash and can be extremely painful if left untreated. Poor posture or activity may also result in neck strain or sprain.
- Neck injury – Traumatic injuries in the neck may result in a neck fracture. The cervical disc along the spine becomes damaged due to blunt force or sudden and abrupt movement. Motor vehicle accidents are among the most common causes of this type of neck injury.
- Degenerative disease – Arthritis in the neck or degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine may result in neck pain. Overall wear-and-tear may cause severe discomfort, especially if the condition is left untreated.
What are the Symptoms of Neck Pain?
Pain is the most common symptom of a neck strain. The pain may be mild to severe, often combined with limited range of motion and difficulty moving the neck due to pain. Whiplash injury may result in an inability to move the neck from side to side or up and down due to pain and discomfort.
The pain, if left untreated, may worsen over time depending on the nature of the injury or severity of symptoms. A neck injury that is left untreated may result in the development of chronic pain and arthritis in cervical joints. It is recommended that your specialist be seen so that a proper treatment plan may be initiated.
How is Neck Pain Diagnosed?
Unless there was a known injury that resulted in the neck pain, identifying the cause may be challenging. Your Ft Myers pain doctor will gather a complete medical history and symptoms assessment in order to establish proper care and treatment. A physical examination including range of motion tests may be required to diagnose the injury.
Your specialist may order x-rays, an MRI or CT scan if disc herniation, fracture or arthritis is suspected. Imaging tests provide a clearer picture of the cervical spine so that the doctor can make a determination for effective treatment.
Nerve tests may be recommended, especially if the patient reports numbness or tingling down the arm or burning into the shoulder region. Nerve tests can reveal if there is a pinched nerve that is contributing to the pain.
What are the Treatments?
Depending on the symptoms, various treatment options are available to reduce pain and provide relief from neck pain, whether it is acute or chronic. Treatment varies from the administration of pain relief medications to chiropractic care.
- Physical Therapy
- Acupuncture Treatment
- Chiropractic Care
- Spinal Decompression Therapy
- Trigger Point Injections
- Medical Branch Blocks
- Facet Injections
- Radiofrequency Ablation
After all conservative methods of treatment have been exhausted and little to no relief provided, cervical surgery may be required. Most patients, approximately 80-90%, receive some form of relief from the above treatment options.
Physical therapy is recommended for soft tissue injuries that resolve within a few weeks to months. The Spine Journal, 2010, reported that the majority of patients with soft tissue injury resulting in neck pain received relief from compression packs, heat application, massage, electrical stimulation, TENS, and strengthening exercises. All of these treatments are consistent with routine physical therapy.
Chiropractic care for the neck was once disregarded as proper treatment for the cervical spine, however, recent studies show that this form of conservative spinal manipulation is highly effective and recommended within the medical community. Conservative treatment plans can be discussed with your pain specialist to ensure the most effective care is being offered.
What are the Outcomes?
Most people with neck pain and injury become pain free after a few weeks to months of treatment. Depending on the cause of the neck pain, the outcome is favorable. Chronic pain requires extensive treatment, but can be relieved through a combination of care. Pain specialists who are experienced with neck pain cases offer much research and insight into treating this kind of condition.
Overall, very few neck problems end up needing surgery. This is because Fort Myers pain management clinics treat neck pain so effectively. If you or a loved one is suffering from either acute or chronic neck pain, let the California Pain Network help you. The Network connects those in pain with pain management Fort Myers trusts.
Simply fill out the form on the page or call (239) 288-0072 for assistance today!