Neck pain is more than just an annoyance. It’s a major cause of morbidity and disability in the U.S. and around the world. Research has found that severe neck pain can affect your physical, social, and psychological well-being.
And neck pain is on the rise in the U.S. — particularly in those aged 20 and over. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that as many as one in three people experiences neck pain each year. That number is higher among women and the elderly.
Here’s the good news: there are a number of effective options for treating neck pain, depending on the severity of the issue. Determining the best treatment for neck pain, however, may depend on the cause and other factors.
Below we have covered some basic information about treating neck pain, including causes, symptoms, treatment tips, and preventative measures. For advice specific to your situation, contact the Atlanta Spine Clinic.
What Is Neck Pain?
So, what exactly is neck pain? It may seem self-explanatory, but there is more to neck pain than you might have realized.
Essentially, your neck is composed of vertebrae that run through your torso up to your skull. Your neck supports your head and allows it to move using a series of bones, ligaments, and muscles.
If your neck starts to hurt, it could be due to a number of injuries or strain caused to these series of bones, ligaments, and muscles. In the vast majority of cases, neck pain is a relatively minor problem that can be resolved with the right techniques within a week. However, there are types of neck pain that may require specific attention — and even surgery.
What Is Neck Pain Caused By?
Neck pain can be caused by a number of incidents and behaviors, including:
Poor posture may seem relatively harmless, but it’s actually one of the leading causes of neck pain these days. Hunching over your computer or smartphone and commuting for long periods of time can cause your neck muscles to strain and weaken.
Due to its composition, the neck is hurt very easily by external forces — particularly when it is forced into a sudden jerking movement, known as whiplash.
Any movement that forces neck muscles and ligaments to extend beyond their range can cause neck pain. The most common causes are car collisions, trip-and-fall incidents, and even exercise.
In some cases, neck pain may be a symptom of a heart attack. Note that it is often accompanied by symptoms like shortness of breath, vomiting, sweating, and jaw pain.
If you experience neck pain in addition to any of the other symptoms, get to the emergency room immediately.
This one is another medical emergency. With meningitis, the tissues around the brain and spine become inflamed. Symptoms include a sore neck, fever, and headache. Those who experience these symptoms should also seek immediate medical assistance.
Arthritis is a common condition experienced by the elderly. It can cause pain and swelling in joints around the body — including the neck.
This is caused by the narrowing of the spinal column, which can place pressure on the spinal cords and nerves. Spinal stenosis often arises from conditions like arthritis.
Herniated cervical disk
An injury or trauma can cause your cervical disk to protrude, resulting in additional pressure on the spine and nerves. This condition is known as a herniated disk, ruptured disk, or slipped disk.
This involves inflammation or damage to a nerve root in the cervical spine. When this happens, it can cause your neurological functioning to change.
This can result in symptoms like weakness, numbness, pain, and pins-and-needles, and may even impact your reflexes.
In most cases, this goes away on its own. But if it does not, cervical radiculopathy can be degenerative, even leading to paralysis.
How Can You Relieve Neck Pain?
Most neck pain can be relieved by less extreme measures. Treatments may include stretching, using ice and heat, taking pain relievers, wearing a neck collar, and practicing good sleeping habits.
However, severe neck pain may require more robust treatments — including surgical intervention. Generally speaking, there are three main reasons why someone might need neck surgery:
- Their nerve root needs to be decompressed.
- Their spinal cord needs to be decompressed.
- Their cervical spine needs to be stabilized.
If you fall into any of these categories, there are several possible surgeries that may be used to alleviate your pain depending on the specifics of your case.
Anterior cervical discectomy and cervical spinal fusion
This surgery involves making a small incision in the front of the neck to remove the problematic disk or bone spurs and then stabilizing the spine through spinal fusion (i.e., joining two vertebrae together).
It is often used in serious cases of cervical radiculopathy.
Artificial disk replacement
Rather than using spinal fusion, ADR removes the disk that is causing the problems and replaces it with an artificial disk.
Unlike fusing two vertebrae together, ADR can help recipients to maintain a higher level of mobility.
In this procedure, laminae (the bony plates on your vertebrae that protect your spinal cord) are removed to alleviate the pressure on your nerves and spinal cord. Bone spurs and herniated disk may also be removed.
This one is sort of the opposite of a laminectomy. Instead of removing laminae, the surgeon here opens you up to rebuild vertebral laminae in an effort to enlarge your spinal canal and make more room for your spinal cord. Most commonly used for those with spinal stenosis.
Get Help from Specialists in Pain Management
If you are experiencing severe neck pain in the Atlanta area, we encourage you to get in touch with Atlanta Spine Clinic. We’ve helped countless Atlanta clients with neck pain and other issues — we can help you, too.