Neck Pain Treatment
What Causes Neck Pain?
The neck, or cervical spine, is a complex network of bones, muscles, joints, and nerves. Neck pain may be felt in the neck itself, but it often originates from a problem in the back. It may also radiate to the shoulders or down the arms, or might be felt as a tension headache. Pain in the neck can be dull and achy, sore and tender, or sharp and stabbing, and can make turning the head difficult. Neck pain causes and conditions include whiplash injuries, strains and sprains, as well as conditions like scoliosis, herniated discs, or compression fractures of the spine. Degenerative disc disease, rheumatoid arthritis or cancer can also cause neck pain.
Neck Pain Due to Injury
Whiplash is the term used to describe a condition which arises when a person’s head moves quickly backward and then forward again, like the lash of a whip. Whiplash is a common result of a rear-end car collision, but can also be caused by sports injuries, amusement park rides, or physical abuse. Whiplash causes neck pain and stiffness, along with headaches and dizziness.
Neck strains and sprains can happen as a result of an impact, such as in a car collision, from a fall, or while playing contact sports, or simply from spending too long in an awkward position. Though neck strains are typically not medically serious, they can cause significant pain, stiffness, and discomfort. Pain from both strains and sprains in the neck can radiate downward into the shoulders, and turning the head can be painful and difficult.
Torticollis is a type of neck strain that can occur from an illness or an injury to the head or neck or can be present at birth. Also called wryneck, this condition occurs when the neck is tilted or twisted, causing stiffness, pain and headaches.
When nerves in the neck are irritated, compressed, or damaged, cervical radiculopathy can result. Pain and weakness from cervical radiculopathy can be felt in the neck or can radiate to the shoulders or other areas. Similarly, herniated cervical discs—the discs in the neck’s vertebrae—can compress the nerves that branch out from the spinal cord, causing pain in the neck or shoulder blades. This pain might be dull or sharp, and may radiate into the shoulders and arms.
Spinal stenosis is a gradual narrowing of the openings within the spine, and can affect any portion of the spine. When this condition affects the upper portion of the spine or the neck, nerves within the spine can be compressed, causing neck pain, stiffness, numbness, and weakness.
Cervical spondylosis, also known as neck arthritis or cervical osteoarthritis, occurs with age, as the cartilage and bones of the neck break down due to wear and tear over time. This condition can cause chronic, severe neck pain and stiffness, especially if bone spurs develop.
Osteoporosis, a degenerative condition that causes the bones to become progressively weaker and more brittle, can cause compression fractures of the spine. Automobile accidents and falls can also cause these fractures in the vertebrae, and the resulting pain can radiate up the spine and into the neck.
Facet joint syndrome can develop anywhere in the spine. The facet joints are small joints between the vertebrae; as they degrade over time due to wear and tear, persistent, chronic neck pain can result.
Degenerative disc disease occurs when the discs cushioning the vertebrae are weakened due to small, painful tears, and scar tissue in the disk wall. Caused by the natural aging process or by injury to the spine, this condition can cause neck pain and stiffness. The pain can also radiate downward into the shoulders, arms, and hands.
Other Neck Pain Causes and Conditions
Migraines, tension headaches, and whiplash headaches are all common neck pain causes. Headache tenderness and pain can often be felt not only in the head, but in the muscles of the neck as well.
Post-laminectomy syndrome is another term for failed back syndrome, which refers to persistent pain that an individual can experience after surgery on the back. This condition can include neck pain if the surgery involved the upper or cervical spine.
Certain forms of cancer, such as nasopharyngeal cancer, thyroid cancer, laryngeal cancer and metastatic cancer of the spine, can cause persistent neck pain. Nasopharyngeal and thyroid cancer can both cause tender lumps in the neck as well as sore, swollen lymph nodes. Tumors can form with any type of cancer, causing pain if they press against a bone, nerve, or other organ.
Serious health conditions such as heart attacks and viral and bacterial meningitis can cause a stiff, sore neck. These conditions require prompt medical attention.
There are a number of reasons you may be experiencing neck pain. You can trust the experts at Balcones Pain to treat you with compassion and to work with you on a treatment plan to alleviate your discomfort.
How is Neck Pain Treated?
Pain in the neck can be sore, tender, dull, sharp, or stabbing. Depending on the underlying condition, neck pain can make turning the head difficult or even impossible. Treatments for neck pain depend on the condition causing the pain and might include physical therapy, oral and topical medications or injections. The compassionate care providers at Balcones Pain Consultants are experts in diagnosing neck pain causes and determining an appropriate and effective treatment plan.
Biofeedback and Acupuncture for Treating Neck Pain
Biofeedback is a noninvasive technique involving electrical sensors that provide information about bodily functions like heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature. Patients can use this information to make subtle bodily changes, such as relaxing certain muscles, to reduce pain and improve their health. Biofeedback can be recommended by your healthcare provider to treat neck pain related to tension headaches and other conditions.
Acupuncture, another noninvasive technique that can be effective in treating neck pain, is an ancient healing technique of traditional Chinese medicine. Acupuncture involves stimulating specific points on the body with extremely fine, sterile needles to promote the natural healing process. This technique can be a beneficial component of treatment for neck pain and stiffness due to arthritis and other chronic conditions.
Treatments for Neck Pain Due to Injury
Neck pain from whiplash injuries can be treated with NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) or other pain medications along with muscle relaxants, cold applications and collars or braces to provide stability. Ultrasound and massage can also play an important role in whiplash injury recovery. Treatment for neck pain due to a muscle strain or ligament strain is similar to whiplash treatment. Physical therapy that includes gentle stretches can also promote long-term recovery from neck sprains and strains of any type.
Neck pain from torticollis (also called wryneck) can be treated with gentle stretches to lengthen neck muscles and tendons and improve range of motion. Muscle relaxants, pain medications, and injections can also relieve the pain associated with this condition. In rare and severe cases, surgery may be required.
Treating neck pain from compression fractures of the spine, which are often related to osteoporosis, involves rest and pain medication along with cold and heat therapy. Any underlying conditions that caused the compression fracture will also need to be treated. In some cases, treatment for neck pain from a compression fracture will require surgery.
Treatments for Neck Pain Due to Nerve Damage
Treatment for neck pain due to irritated, compressed, or damaged nerves generally involves oral pain medication, antidepressants or skin patches that provide temporary, localized pain relief. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation and nerve blocks can also be quite effective at treating neck pain due to neuropathy or nerve damage.
Neck pain from herniated cervical discs can be treated with NSAIDs and other pain medications, gentle stretching, and physical therapy exercises, chiropractic adjustments, and cold and heat applications. Oral steroid medications can also relieve pain by reducing inflammation. In some severe cases, surgery on the affected discs may be necessary.
Treating neck pain from spinal stenosis typically includes NSAIDs and other medications along with physical therapy and exercise. Epidural steroid injections can also greatly reduce neck pain and inflammation associated with this condition.
Treatments for Neck Pain Due to Inflammatory or Degenerative Conditions
Treatment for neck pain due to cervical spondylosis, also known as neck arthritis or cervical osteoarthritis, might include wearing a cervical collar to limit neck movement. NSAIDs and other pain medications can also help reduce pain, swelling and inflammation, and physical therapy can play an important role in both pain reduction and overall recovery. Cold and heat applications can also be effective in treating neck pain due to arthritic conditions, as can steroid injections or nerve blocks. In rare cases, surgery may be recommended to relieve pressure on a compressed nerve.
Neck pain caused by degenerative disc disease can be treated with muscle relaxants and pain medications like NSAIDs along with gentle stretching and physical therapy exercises. Cold and heat therapy and chiropractic adjustments can also provide effective treatment, as can steroid injections and oral medications.
Neck pain from facet joint syndrome can be treated with physical therapy, heat or cold applications, chiropractic adjustments, and NSAIDs or other anti-inflammatory pain medications. A cervical collar can also provide temporary pain relief by stabilizing the neck muscles and limiting movement.
Treatment for Neck Pain Due to Headaches, Cancer, and Other Conditions
Treating neck pain from tension headaches generally involves medications such as NSAIDs, opioids, or triptans, which block pain signals to the brain. Allergy medications can also help reduce pain when headaches are caused by an allergic reaction. Chiropractic adjustments can reduce neck and headache pain caused by irregularities in the cervical spine.
Neck pain from migraine headaches might be effectively treated with preventive drugs such as beta-blockers, antidepressants and anti-seizure medications. Botox, massage, nutritional supplements, acupuncture, and biofeedback can all play important roles in resolving neck pain due to chronic migraine headaches.
When neck pain results from post-laminectomy syndrome, also known as failed back syndrome, physical therapy, medications, and pain management techniques can all help reduce or eliminate the pain.
Advanced Treatments for Neck Pain Management
Severe or chronic neck pain which does not respond to other treatments, or which significantly impacts your life or activity level, may be treated with more advanced methods. It’s important to let your healthcare provider at Balcones Pain Consultants know about all your symptoms, so that we can help you to return to living life as smoothly and quickly as possible. We will be happy to answer any questions you have about the many treatment options available, including:
- Caudal Steroid Injection
- Cervical Epidural Steroid Injection
- Cervical Facet Radiofrequency Neurotomy
- Cervical Selective Nerve Root Block
- Costovertebral Block
- Dekompressor Discectomy
- Facet Joint Injections
- Intrathecal Pump Implant
- Lumbar Epidural Steroid Injection
- Lumbar Radiofrequency Neurotomy
- Lumbar Sympathetic Block
- Lumbar Transforaminal Epidural Steroid Injection
- Medial Branch Block
- Prolotherapy Treatment for Low Back Pain
- PRP for Whiplash
- Sacroiliac Joint Steroid Injection
- Spinal Cord Stimulator Implant (Includes Trial Procedure)
- Stellate Ganglion Block
- Trigger Point Injections