Your neck, which helps you look up, down, and side-to-side, needs to be very flexible to allow you to see from a wide range of angles. Your bones and soft tissues make this enhanced mobility possible. The cervical spine, which refers to the bones of the neck,
For more information about neck pain and how to treat it, please contact our office today. We can answer your questions and help you schedule a consultation.
What causes neck pain?
Neck pain can develop as a result of a wide range of conditions that affect the bones, muscles, ligaments, nerves, or joints of the neck. Discomfort typically stems from the soft tissues, either due to an anatomical abnormality, injury, or long-term wear and tear. Though uncommon, tumors or infection can occur, reducing mobility and causing pain. Neck concerns can also lead to issues in other areas of the body, including the shoulders, back, and arms.
Degenerative and Inflammatory Diseases
There are a number of degenerative diseases of the neck that can cause you pain or discomfort. Some of the most common include osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Over time, regular wear and tear of the joints can lead to osteoarthritis, which typically develops in mature and elderly adults. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes the lining of your joints to swell, gradually leading to bone destruction and joint deformity. With both of these conditions you may experience stiffness, pain, and reduced function.
Another cause of neck pain can be cervical disc degeneration. In between each vertebra is a squishy, shock-absorbing disc that protects the bones. Inside the disc is a jelly-like substance called the nucleus. If this soft center begins to degenerate, there is less space between the two corresponding vertebrae, which may then begin to rub painfully. Furthermore, if the disc ruptures, the contents could protrude and place pressure on the spinal cord or spinal nerves, causing discomfort and reduced mobility. A ruptured disc in the neck is known as a herniated cervical disc. Cervical disc degeneration commonly occurs in women over the age of 40, but it can happen to anyone.
The neck’s primary purpose is to support the head and provide a flexible foundation so it can move. As a result, the neck is susceptible to injury from car accidents, recreational activities, falls, and other incidents that can cause damage. Our skilled orthopaedists recommend wearing a seatbelt whenever in a motor vehicle to prevent whiplash and other injuries. A collision from behind can cause the neck to hyperextend—move backward beyond the normal boundaries—or hyperflex—move forward beyond the normal boundaries. Other issues that could occur include fracture, dislocation, or paralysis.
In addition to physical injuries and disease, neck pain may occur as a result of a tumor, infection, or congenital abnormality. However, these concerns are less common.
When should you seek medical care?
If you experience an injury that results in severe neck pain, such as a car or diving accident or fall, you should seek out a paramedic or
If you have neck pain without experiencing an injury, you may still wish to see an
- Persistent and continuous
- Accompanied by radiating pain through the arms or the legs
- Accompanied by weakness, tingling, numbness, or headaches
Who can treat neck pain?
Diagnosing Neck Pain
When you arrive for
During this meeting, your surgeon will take a complete medical history. We encourage you to feel comfortable and be honest about any medications you’re taking and surgeries or treatments you’ve completed. We will also ask you about any past neck injuries, illnesses, pain, or other complaints.
Your doctor will then perform a physical examination of your neck, arms, and legs. He or she may explore your neck motion, check for tenderness, and review the function of your nerves, muscles, and ligaments in your neck and extremities.
Your surgeon may then request some tests to help diagnose your condition. We will order the minimum number of tests necessary to properly evaluate your concern. X-rays are commonly requested to view how your cervical bones look and function. In most
- MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging): Examines the soft tissues of the neck, including the spinal cord and nerve roots.
- CT (Computerized Tomography): An alternative form of X-ray that shows a more precise view of the bones and spinal canal
- Myelogram: Another type of X-ray that includes the injection of a dye or “contrast material” into the spinal canal to enhance
visibilityof the spinal canal and the nerve roots.
- EMG (Electromyogram): An evaluation of nerve and muscle function.
Depending on your unique needs, your
Neck Pain Treatment
Most incidences of neck pain can be successfully treated with one or more non-surgical techniques, including rest, prescription medication, physical therapy, exercise, and behavior modifications. Your treatment plan will depend on your diagnosis, and our
Discomfort caused by stretching neck muscles and ligaments beyond the normal range can lead to inflammation, which can be treated with rest and by wearing a neck collar for a pre-determined period of time. Medication to reduce inflammation may also be prescribed. If you’re experiencing pain severe enough to require prescription medication, it’s important to use it as advised and to discontinue use as directed. You should also carefully follow any instructions provided by your surgeon.
Rehabilitation programs can also be highly effective for persistent or chronic neck pain. This treatment plan may include specific exercises and physical therapy movements that are designed to reduce pain and prevent recurrences.
Surgical intervention is rarely necessary for neck pain. In most cases, a combination of minimally invasive treatments can alleviate the discomfort.
At Orthopaedic Institute of Central Jersey, our extensively trained
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