A generation ago, when our parents were our age, the only treatments available to treat their neck and upper back pain were either aspirin-like drugs or surgery. They were usually told by their doctors that they would “just have to live it.” While this may have been very difficult for them to endure, there really were no acceptable treatment options in the 1960s, 1970s or even 1980s.
Over the past decade, however, pain management physicians, working closely with scientists who study the anatomy and the way the nervous system works have discovered something very interesting: there really aren’t that many structures in the neck and upper back that can cause pain. And identifying the structure that causes the pain is absolutely critical.
My concept of “precision pain management” is based upon the fact that there is an anatomic or biochemical reason for pain to exist, and in order to treat pain properly, we MUST first make the right diagnosis. If you had a bad cough with difficulty breathing, your doctor would first have to determine whether you had pneumonia, asthma, or lung cancer; clearly, these are very different diseases, and the treatment that your doctor implemented would be based upon making the correct diagnosis in the first place. Treatment of your pain should really not be any different!
Most of us are familiar with discs that are located within the spine. The cervical (neck) or thoracic (upper back) discs are rubbery supportive structures that are shaped like a slice of sausage. With age, trauma, or even minor falls, these discs can become degenerated, and thereby become an important source of pain in the neck. Sometimes the pain can also radiate to the shoulder, upper back, and down the arm. An even more common reason for neck and upper back pain is degeneration or trauma to the joints in the spine. Whiplash injuries from car wrecks, and even much more minor trauma can disrupt these so-called facet joints in the spine, and cause very similar symptoms to those produced by disc disease.
Armed with new treatment options, compassion, and thorough medical detective work, we are fortunate to live during a time in which we no longer have to live with our pain. If you or a loved one suffers from chronic pain, call our friendly staff today to schedule an appointment so that we can help you.
–Michael E. Steuer, MD, Mid-South Pain Treatment Center, located in Southaven, Germantown and Oxford