What are the Symptoms of Neck Pain?
- Numbness due to pinched nerves.
- Clicking or grating noises.
- Muscle spasms
- Low mental energy
- Pained or weak arms
- Tension headaches, where pain occurs in the back of your head, your ear, or behind your eye.
- Inability to move your neck muscles without feeling pain or stiffness.
- A smaller range of neck motion.
What are the Most Common Causes of Neck Pain?
- Age: Over time, your bones, muscles, ligaments, and other aspects that keep your neck working suffer from wear and tear. The stress of repeated movements and having to deal with various pressures over the years cause the disks in your spine to weaken. This only grows worse with conditions that deteriorate or degenerate the parts of your neck system. Conditions like osteoarthritis wear down joint cartilage, while other conditions like spinal stenosis will narrow the spaces in your spine.
- Physical and Mental Stress: When you overuse your neck muscles, they can begin suffering from pain and stiffness. These issues are made worse by poor posture, excess body weight, and weak abdominal muscles. Your body suffers from improper use of its muscles and can develop neck and spinal problems. Meanwhile, stress and agitation can cause tenseness in the neck muscles. This tension causes strain you may not realize is there until the pain begins.
- Injuries: Damage to your muscles, ligaments, disks, joints, nerves and other parts of your neck can lead to pain. The neck relies on a complex system of working parts, and injury to any of them can affect the others and lead to pain. Whiplash, in particular, affects the neck with an injury that involves your head being jerked around.
- Spondylosis: Where new lumps of new bone growth on your vertebrae and the facet joints. It is caused by aging and your body's everyday use.
Preventing Neck Pain
Make sure you take the proper steps to protect your neck and prevent any avoidable issues from developing. These methods refer to ways to prevent neck pain from naturally developing or worsening. In case of a traumatic incident or injury, be sure to consult with a medical professional about your approach to avoid aggravating your injuries.
- Fix Your Posture: Keep your back straight and shoulders aligned when sitting down. It helps to position your electronic devices in places where you do not have to slouch or strain your body to look at them.
- Sleep in a Good Position: You must maintain good posture, even in your sleep. A pillow to support your head and neck helps, as does one under the knees to help support your lower back. One of the worst positions to sleep in is on your stomach with your head turned.
- Exercise: Stay active in order to maintain your circulation, body flexibility and to keep muscles strong. Even if you are required to sit at a desk for work, take the occasional break to move around and stretch. When you exercise or participate in strenuous activities, make sure you avoid placing heavy weight on your shoulders. Be sure to strengthen your upper back and extensor muscles with exercises focusing on that area of the body.
How Your Neck Pain is Diagnosed
Typically, your doctor will be able to diagnose your neck pain problem with a physical exam and a look at your medical history. However, in more serious cases, you may need to undergo more intensive testing to narrow down the potential causes of your neck pain in order to find proper treatment.
- Physical Exam: A medical professional will need to examine the area affected by pain. Your head and neck alignment will need to be checked as you show how large the range of motion you can do without pain is. They will also check for tenderness, strain, and tenseness.
- Medical History: Your diagnosis is made easier when you provide your doctor with a full medical history. Information like your daily activities, past injuries, when the pain began, where it started, how intense it is, and how long it lasts can be essential to the diagnosis process.
- X-Rays: Provide imaging of bones and soft tissues. Which can help show any issues with cervical alignment, disk issues, fractures, or arthritis.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): MRIs are used to check for any spinal cord, nerve, bone marrow, or soft tissue problems. They also provide information on slipped disks, infections and growths.
- Computed Tomography Scan (CAT scan): Used to check for bone spurs and signs of bone deterioration.
- Electrodiagnostic Tests: Tests that check the nerve function and muscle response in your neck.
- Lab Tests: Identity neck pain causes that are not injuries, including infections, rheumatological conditions, or cancers
Neck Pain Self Care
The majority of minor neck injuries will go away with rest and time or with some self-care.
- Hot and Cold Therapy: Heat will help increase circulation and loosen your muscles. Which helps prevent issues with tension and strain for your neck muscles. Cooling an affected area will narrow blood vessels, which helps reduce swelling and inflammation. If your neck sustains an injury, use cold instead of heat therapy immediately.
- Protect Your Mental Health: Practice relaxing habits to relieve your body of tension. Meditation, breathing exercises, yoga, and mindfulness are common stress-relieving techniques.
- Exercise Carefully: Do not do anything to aggravate your neck pain. Follow your doctor’s guidance on the proper exercises you can do to relieve any neck pain.
Alternative Care Methods
- Acupuncture: An ancient technique with needles placed at key points to stimulate your nerves and activate your body’s natural healing processes.
- Massage Therapy: A massage can ease stress and reduce tension while soothing muscle spasms. A trained professional will be able to provide a trained massage that will provide maximum relief. But you can also self-massage or have someone else massage the affected area. In any case, be careful not to aggravate your symptoms.
- Manual Manipulation: A health professional uses their hands to adjust the spine in order to reduce pain and improve your range of motion.
How is Neck Pain Treated?
When you consult the doctors at Garden State Pain & Orthopedics, you have access to treatments that are only available from physicians specializing in interventional pain medicine. They perform diverse procedures that deliver treatment directly to the affected area, providing immediate and significant pain relief. They also offer physical therapy and rehabilitation to rebuild strength and improve range of motion. Your treatment plan may include one of the following injections:
Cervical Transforaminal Epidural Steroid Injection
Steroid medication injected into the space outside the spinal cord reduces swelling and inflammation. This injection is often used to treat compressed or pinched nerves due to disk damage, degeneration, or injury.
Cervical Interlaminar Epidural Steroid Injection
This injection is similar to the transforaminal epidural steroid injection, but it’s injected in an area where the steroid can reach multiple nerves.
Cervical Facet Block
The facet joints that connect the vertebrae in your spine can wear out, degenerate, and develop bone spurs, leading to inflammation and pain. A cervical facet block determines whether the facet joint is the source of pain, then the block is used to treat the pain.
Your doctor at Garden State Pain & Orthopedics uses fluoroscopic X-ray to guide needle placement, then injects a numbing anesthetic and steroid. The local anesthetic provides immediate but temporary relief, while the steroid begins to reduce inflammation and pain in five to 10 days.
What Other Treatments Effectively Relieve Neck Pain?
Depending on the source of your neck pain, other treatment options include:
Cervical Radiofrequency Ablation
This is a highly effective treatment in which a needle is heated by radiofrequency energy and then applied to the nerve, which stops pain signals from reaching the brain. Prior to ablation, a nerve block is performed to determine which nerves cause your pain, so the treatment is precisely applied to only the involved nerves.
Spinal Cord Stimulation
A medical device called a spinal cord stimulator is placed under your skin, where it sends a mild electrical current to nerves in the spine. The controlled electrical stimulation interferes with pain signals from the nerve to the brain.
Intrathecal Pain Pump
An intrathecal pain pump is a small device that holds pain medication and is programmed to release the medication into the intrathecal space of your spine.