Do you suffer from neck pain? This acute or chronic pain condition can have a huge impact on your quality of life — your work, your relationships, your joy. In this article, we discuss the major aspects of neck pain conditions, including methods for finding neck pain relief.
Neck pain is a condition that develops quite often in adults, especially women. More specifically, reports show that 15% and 25% of males and females, respectively, whose ages range from approximately 21 to 55 years of age experience
In other words, neck pain tends to be recurrent, and a specific event that causes neck pain increases the susceptibility of experiencing frequent neck pain. Clinicians also report that patients who are aware of the incident that initiated their neck pain tend to suffer from this condition more frequently than those who never had a problem with neck pain. As a result, a previous condition or injury to the neck dramatically increases the probability of suffering from recurrent neck pain.
Although neck pain is typically localized to a small region, it can lead to dramatic functional and mobility impairments. Subsequently, the serious complications that neck pain may cause has been linked to a high number of disability cases, most of which hinder individuals from working properly and even functioning normally at home. In actuality, more than 10% of people who have persistent pain in the neck have to discontinue working. It is, therefore, not surprising that neck pain is now reported as one of the main health issues that have a negative impact on the economy.
Decreased work productivity and significant increases in medical treatment have also been attributed to recurring neck pain. In particular, studies have reported that up to 50% of patients who have neck pain need to receive medical treatment to help manage their discomfort and painful symptoms. Accordingly, theoretical as well as empirical research regarding neck pain is gaining an increased amount of attention. For the past decade, research has specifically focused on identifying factors that indicate the onset of neck pain. Furthermore, clinical trials are being continuously conducted to determine if various types of treatments can effectively reduce neck pain or completely alleviate the symptoms.
Due to the complex structure of the neck and cervical spine, neck pain can develop from a variety of issues. The degeneration of muscle or tissue in the neck, which may gradually occur over time, often causes neck pain. Ligament, muscle, or joint damage in the neck are also among the primary causes of acute or persistent neck pain. Even though these types of problems commonly result in neck pain, sometimes the source cannot be accurately identified.
The cervical spine is the highest portion of the spine and it is connected to the base of the head. This spinal region appears to cause neck pain in the majority of cases. The cervical spine contains seven spinal bones called vertebrae, which are connected to each other by facet joints. The facet joints in the neck can easily become irritated, inflamed, or damaged. Fractured or dislocated spinal bones tend to cause neck pain as well, especially if these conditions are not treated.
An additional condition that can lead to neck and back pain is stenosis. This is a condition in which the spine becomes compressed and causes the spaces between the spinal bones as well as the tissue that surrounds them to become very narrow. There are several common causes of stenosis. However, the primary cause is scar tissue formation on the spinal cord. In addition, neck pain may be the result of bulging disc syndrome, which causes discs that are located between the spinal vertebrae to push outward. This leads to the painful compression and irritation of spinal nerves.
A similarly, common problem that causes neck and headache pain is whiplash, which refers to a quick jolt that causes the neck and head to jerk back and forth. Rollercoaster rides and car accidents are highly associated with the occurrence of whiplash. Whiplash has never proven to be fatal, although it can lead to persistent pain. An injury such as this damages neck muscles, spinal bones, and the ligaments as the neck abruptly whips forward and backwards
Back surgery has been shown to lead to neck pain in some cases, although this is rare. The spine and back consist of a very complex combination of muscles, tissues, and bones that begin at the top of the neck and extend down into the pelvis. For instance, the spine is referred to as a robust bony structure which keeps the body upright by supporting its weight while protecting vital nerves within the spine that transmit essential signals. There are numerous individual spinal bones positioned in a ladder-like pattern that are connected by spinal discs and facet joints that enhance flexibility and support. The actual spinal cord that contains the nerves sits inside of the bony column. An unsuccessful surgical procedure may lead to scar tissue that forms on spinal nerves or causes injury to nerves that travel into the neck. These types of complications can cause neck strain or pain.
. The technique involves using a catheter that has been placed through a needle to administer a chemical (i.e., hyaluronidase) near the scar tissue. This type of chemical leads to the degradation of the scar tissue and this relieves pressure on the nerves. Recently, a clinical trial demonstrated that this technique provides relief.
A spinal disc that bulges or ruptures can lead to cervical pain and a procedure called a percutaneous discectomy is usually necessary at this point. The procedure is not very invasive and the purpose is to extract the material and tissue around the inflamed spinal disc because it is proposed that dead tissue is responsible for the subsequent neck pain and persistent discomfort. In order to be able to properly visualize the affected tissue, a doctor visualizes the procedure by using a type of X-ray that is called a fluoroscope, so that the apparatus that will be used to remove the tissue will be properly placed. After the correct positioning of the apparatus has been confirmed, radio waves or heat signals are delivered in order to degrade and destroy the affected tissue. After the procedure, patients usually need a day or two to recover. The pressure that was being placed on the spinal nerves by the inflamed tissue decreases as a result of this technique and this provides dramatic relief.
Epidural steroid injections can be administered to treat neck pain that is the result of stenosis (inflamed nerves). Epidural injections for neck pain are delivered through the skin into the targeted location, which is usually the space between spinal bones in order to decrease pain. Asteroid and pain reliever is injected through the back into the epidural space that is located between the spinal vertebrae. A fluoroscope allows the doctor to see where the medication is being injected.
Steroids reduce inflammation that typically occurs in spinal nerves. Injections of steroids into the cervical spine have been shown to be beneficial as well. These outpatient procedures do not require any form of surgery and they are performed quickly. Steroid injections usually afford patients with rapid relief that may completely alleviate their symptoms. Research that focused on the effects of receiving multiple injections with steroids demonstrated how receiving repeated injections over a one-year period dramatically improved the results, especially for patients who did not feel much relief after the initial injection.
Side effects that may develop after a steroid injection include gastric ulcers, mood changes, and weight gain. A nerve block is another type of treatment that provides longer-lasting results than steroid injections. This approach involves the injection of medication that completely blocks nerves from transmitting pain signals. Side effects include nausea, chest problems, and numbness at the injection site. A blood vessel may accidentally become punctured as well, but this rarely occurs.
Watch one of our own doctors perform a cervical epidural steroid injection for cervical pain now!
Different types of pain are also being treated nowadays with Botox is made up of a pure extract of a neurotoxin called botulinum that is isolated from bacteria called Clostridium botulinum. The toxin leads to the temporary paralysis of muscles when it is injected in small amounts.
Botox treatment effectively provides relief from neck and shoulder pain (or “sneck” pain) by hindering the activity of overactive spinal nerves. The toxin also prevents neurotransmitters that regulate the transfer of pain signals from being released. A patient can expect to feel relief from anywhere from three weeks to eight weeks after receiving an injection. Studies that compared Botox treatment groups to placebo groups show that Botox is effective.
A fractured vertebra may also result in cervical spine pain and the treatment approach for this condition involves repairing the vertebra. This treatment entails injecting cement into the fractured vertebra in order to restabilize it.
Although this appears to be an invasive approach, it is only intrusive to a minimal degree and it is an outpatient technique. When the cement hardens, the treated vertebra has its original length, which relieves nerve compression, and also promotes proper spinal support. This is a fairly novel approach that has demonstrated the ability to effectively relieve cervical spine pain. Complications that may arise include bleeding, infections, and headaches as well as nerve damage that may cause possible paralysis. Intense inflammation may arise as well if the cement accidentally leaks.
Radiofrequency ablation is another technique that is minimally invasive and involves placing electrothermal probes throughout the back near nerves that are inflamed. The probes are used to administer high-frequency pulses to the nerves in order to block their transmission. This process hinders nerves from sending information regarding pain and inflammation to the brain. Accidental injury to motor nerves, infections, and bleeding may occur after this procedure.
There are certain, rare cases in which neck pain does not respond to direct injections or treatment of spinal nerves. In such cases, an unconventional method may prove to be useful. one such method that works well for failed back surgery or resistant pain. This form of stimulation involves the insertion of electronic devices in close proximity to the spine. The devices emit electrical impulses that disrupt pain signals. A controller is usually provided to the patient who is taught how to control the level of the impulses. In addition, severe and persistent pain may be treated with intrathecal pump implants. These implants are also inserted near the spine but deliver pain-blocking medication as opposed to electronic impulses. The pumps have proven to be especially effective at relieving cervical spine pain. Risks that are involved with both of these techniques include bleeding, infections, and potential punctures. The implants may also displace from the inserted location and ultimately fail to work, but this rarely occurs.
The interventions that have been discussed have undergone extensive investigations before being utilized regularly for clinical treatment. The complexity of neck pain, as well as the numerous causes of this condition, can make it difficult to diagnose so it is important to discuss various treatment options with a medical professional. Mayo Clinic gives an in-depth discussion of how to prepare for your first doctor’s appointment if you’re suffering from neck pain.