Your Guide to Neck Pain and Its Different Treatments
It’s not uncommon to experience neck pain and stiffness occasionally, especially if you’ve slept incorrectly or have bad posture. However, neck pain can be an indicator of an underlying medical condition. It’s therefore vital to understand the symptoms and causes of various types of neck pain so you can get the best treatment soonest. Have a look at our guide here for more information.
What is Neck Pain and How Common Is It?
The Global Burden of Health identifies neck pain as a pain in the neck, with or without pain radiating into one or both arms for at least a day. This pain can range from minor to severe. It’s most prevalent among adults, although children can also have it. It is the fourth leading cause of disability and has a yearly prevalence rate of more than 30%.
Your cervical spine comprises a network of muscles, nerves, bones, and joints, and provides mobility and support for your head. This area can however become exceptionally painful if problems and irritation occur there.
This pain can be acute, subacute, or chronic. Acute pain usually disappears within four weeks. Subacute pain may last for 4-12 weeks, while chronic pain can last for longer than three months.
Symptoms Linked to Neck Pain
According to Spine Health, symptoms may vary and include:
- Neurological deficits like reflex and sensation problems
- Sharp neck pain
- Tenderness in the neck
- Neck stiffness
- Pain that spreads from your neck into your shoulder and arm
- Numbness in arms and fingers that makes it difficult to grasp items
What Triggers Neck Pain?
Some of the causes of neck pain are as follows:
- Degenerative disc disease
- Spinal stenosis
- Bad posture
- Neck strain
- Injuries such as whiplash
- Cervical spondylosis
- Pinched nerves
- Herniated discs
How is Neck Pain Diagnosed?
Your healthcare practitioner will conduct a medical examination and record a complete medical history. The physical test would normally include posture observation, palpation along your neck’s soft tissue, and a sensation, reflex, and range of motion test.
For an accurate diagnosis, he or she may ask questions about your symptoms, your lifestyle, and work. Your doctor may also use imaging technologies such as a CT scan, X-ray, and MRI scan to diagnose the cause of your pain.
How to Treat Neck Pain
You could treat your pain with ice and heat therapies, physiotherapy, stretching motions, and Over the Counter (OTC) pain medication. You could benefit from wearing a neck brace or by using a muscle relaxant. You may also want to try one of our interventional treatments at MidSouth Pain. Here are some of the methods our pain management specialists offer.
Medial Branch Blocks
This method reduces the pain associated with neck pain. An injection containing a local anesthetic is injected along the medial branch nerves near to your facet joints. It takes only a few minutes and you’d normally lie on your side for a neck injection. Your skin is cleaned before the injection is administered along the nerves. It’s fairly painless and you may feel slight stinging at first from the anesthetic. Rare risks include infection and nerve damage.
Spinal Cord Stimulation
This benefits those suffering from neck pain. It involves the placing of a tiny Spinal Cord Stimulator (SCS) device beneath your skin that transmits a tiny electric pulse to your spine. These pulses then stimulate the nerves responsible for the pain and interfere with, and prevent the pain signals from reaching your brain. Risks here include developing seromas, or pain at the SCS site.
The benefit here is that this procedure is non-surgical and provides relief for neck pain. It’s a treatment that uses heating currents or ablation to destroy the nerve causing pain transmission. With the guidance of a fluoroscope, a thin needle attached to a radiofrequency electrode injects current along the medial branch of your nerves to block pain signals. Uncommon risks include increased nerve pain and infection.
Cervical Facet Joint Blocks
A cervical facet joint block helps reduce inflammation and provides pain relief for neck pain and headaches. It’s also less invasive than surgery. Here a CT scan or X-ray is used to guide and insert a narrow needle with local anesthetic into the facet joint close to the nerves transmitting pain signals. The procedure lasts no longer than 30 minutes. Some rare, potential risks include nerve damage or infection due to site bruising.
Cervical Epidural Steroid Injection
This technique can provide pain relief for neck and shoulder pain caused by herniated discs, pinched nerves, osteoarthritis, or spinal stenosis. You’ll be given an IV if sedation medication is necessary. You lay on your side for this method, as your doctor first cleans and numbs the site. Your doctor then injects a mixture comprising anesthetic, cortisone, and steroids into your epidural space to alleviate pain. Possible risks are spinal headache and prolonged pain.