Your neck – or, more specifically, your cervical spine – is an intricate and relatively fragile network of bones, muscles, joints, and nerves susceptible to occasional stress and strain.
Although the pain may be felt in the neck itself, it is often due to a back problem. Also, the pain may radiate from the neck to the shoulders or down your arms and can be dull and achy, sore and tender, or sharp and stabbing, making it difficult to turn or bend your head.
There are numerous causes of neck pain, which include:
- Whiplash – This occurs when your head moves quickly backward and then forward again, such as the result of rear-end car collision, a sport injury, or a violent amusement park ride. Not only does the injury cause neck pain, but also stiffness, headaches and dizziness.
- Torticollis – This type of neck strain occurs when the neck is tilted or twisted, also resulting in pain, stiffness and headaches.
- Nerve Damage – Irritated, compressed, or damaged nerves in the neck are also the source of pain that radiates to the shoulders and other areas. This is known as cervical radiculopathy. Discs in the neck’s vertebrae can herniate, compressing the nerves that branch out from the spinal cord. Also, there is spinal stenosis, a gradual narrowing of the openings within the spine that also compresses nerves and causing neck pain, stiffness, numbness, and weakness.
- Degenerative Conditions – A condition known as cervical spondylosis (aka neck arthritis or cervical osteoarthritis) occurs when the cartilage and bones of the neck break down due to wear and tear over time, causing chronic, severe neck pain and stiffness. Similarly, osteoporosis causes bones to become progressively weaker and more brittle, leading to compression fractures of the spine that cause pain that can radiate into the neck.
- Migraines or Tension Headaches – These are common neck pain causes, affecting not only the head, but muscles in your neck, as well.
- Post-laminectomy Syndrome – This refers to persistent neck pain experienced after back surgery, especially if the surgery involved the upper or cervical spine.
- Other Conditions – Various forms of cancer – including nasopharyngeal (upper throat, behind the nose), thyroid, and laryngeal can cause persistent neck pain due to tumors or swollen lymph nodes pressing against a bone, nerve, or other organ. Other serious health conditions such as heart attack and viral and bacterial meningitis can cause a stiff sore neck.
Fortunately, there are numerous treatment options for neck pain, depending on the underlying condition.
For example, acupuncture has been found effective in treating arthritis and other chronic conditions.
For neck pain due to injury, NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), muscle relaxants, ultrasound, massage, cold applications, physical therapy, and collars or braces all help provide stability and pain relief.
In the case of neuropathy or nerve damage, oral pain medication, antidepressants, skin patches, electrical nerve stimulation, and nerve blocks can be quite effective in relieving neck pain.
Treatment options for neck pain due to herniated cervical discs, spinal stenosis or inflammatory or degenerative conditions typically include NSAIDs, other pain medication, physical therapy exercises, chiropractic adjustments, cold and heat applications, and epidural injections. In some severe cases, surgery on affected discs may be required.
As for neck pain from migraine and tension headaches, NSAIDs, beta-blockers, massage, nutritional supplements, acupuncture, and biofeedback are just some of the many possible prescribed solutions.
Severe or chronic neck pain that doesn’t respond to these treatments may be addressed with more advanced methods. The important thing is to let your healthcare provider at Balcones Pain Consultants know about your symptoms as soon as possible so you can be treated promptly and go back to living a happy, pain-free life. To schedule an appointment at the Balcones Pain Consultants location near you, call (512) 834-4141 or use our Online Appointment Request Form.