Which conditions are causing my Neck Pain?
Which conditions are causing my Neck Pain?
Overview of Neck Pain
A pain in the neck can be much more than simply a pain in the neck. Neck pain can limit your mobility in ways that can seriously affect your daily life, interrupt your sleep, or hamper your psychological well-being. Neck (or cervical spine) pain can be caused by a simple injury, or a wide array of other conditions. As such, symptoms of neck pain can range from mild discomfort to excruciating or debilitating pain.
Neck pain is generally treatable, and for most, a temporary affliction. Many people get that “crick in the neck” the morning after sleeping in an odd position or spending an afternoon hunched over the computer. After a few hours of discomfort or some gentle stretching, however, the pain typically subsides. However, for countless others, neck pain is a chronic condition that never fully abates. These individuals may experience neurological symptoms of numbness or tingling; pain that shoots down into the arms; or severe limitations in range of neck motion. For these individuals, medical evaluation is needed to manage pain and prevent a worsening of symptoms.
Fortunately, neck pain is a highly treatable condition. Many patients witness progress within days of implementing a doctor-recommended exercise routine at home, accompanied by hot-and-cold therapies and rest from strenuous activity. Other patients may need to turn to non-surgical treatments like steroid injections or manual chiropractic manipulations. Severe neck pain due to traumatic injury or extreme spinal degeneration may require a surgical procedure to correct, such as a fusion or a discectomy.
However, the first step in treating neck pain is understanding and recognizing your symptoms. Providing your doctor with a thorough account of your symptoms can help your physician determine if your pain results from any of the following common neck conditions: degenerative disc disease; a bulging, ruptured, or herniated cervical disc; cervical spinal stenosis (or narrowing of the spinal canal); a pinched nerve in the neck; or spondylolisthesis (a slipped vertebra)—among many other disorders or injuries.
Symptoms of Neck Pain
Neck pain is associated with so many conditions of the spine that the accompanying symptoms can be difficult to pinpoint. However, there are a handful of symptoms that are fairly consistent across the board. These include:
- Dull, aching pain that ranges from an annoying pang to chronic and severe
- Stabbing or shooting pain that radiates into the arms, hands, or fingertips
- Pain that worsens after remaining seated for too long
- Pain that leads to headaches or migraines
- Pain that makes falling asleep at night extremely difficult
- Neck stiffness
- Limited mobility when lifting the chin upward or downward or when rotating the head
- Neck spasms or cramps from pinched spinal nerves
- Progressive weakening of the arms or hands
Ready for an evaluation from one of our experienced doctors? We believe that our patients deserve the best, which is why we evolve with the latest technologies that modern medicine and spine health have to offer. Schedule your appointment today with of our spine experts by contacting our patient advocates at (973) 538-0900.
Determining the Cause of Your Neck Pain
Having your pain addressed instead of ignoring it is important since untreated neck problems can lead to additional injuries, like muscle strain, worn joints, or nerve compression. When you see your doctor, an MRI, CT scan, and/or X-ray will be ordered to visualize the cause of your pain. These tests can reveal structural problems in the neck or the presence of abnormalities such as bone spurs or ruptured discs. Electromyography (or nerve conduction studies) may be prescribed to determine if you suffer from a pinched cervical nerve. Blood tests can reveal infections or inflammatory conditions that could be causing your neck pain.
Neck Pain Treatment Options
Exercise, Bracing, & Chiropractic
Fortunately, most patients find relief from their symptoms with simple stretching and a medically prescribed exercise routine. Massage, manual adjustment and bracing can also be extremely effective in providing symptom relief and allowing the neck to heal.
Steroidal injections, anti-inflammatory drugs, or muscle relaxers may be prescribed to help the patient more easily tolerate physical therapy or manual readjustment. Electrical impulses or spinal cord stimulation may also be used to promote symptom relief.
A microdiscectomy is a minimally invasive procedure that your surgeon may recommend if it is determined that your neck pain results from a herniated cervical disc. During this procedure, your surgeon will extract herniated disc material to decompress pinched nerves.
An artificial disc replacement is an outpatient procedure in which your surgeon removes a degenerated cervical disc and replaces it with an artificial model which mimics the functionality and flexibility of the original.