Pain management doctors see a large number of patients suffering from neck pain, particularly cervical spine pain. This type of pain is often caused by certain cervical spine conditions.
These include the following:
Cervical foraminal stenosis occurs when the cervical space is narrowed. This is usually caused by a joint becoming enlarged and pressing on the nerve root. Since the pain takes years to develop and tends to appear only during certain activities, it is easy for patients to ignore the issue. It can get worse over time, however.
Traction may offer some relief, but in most cases, cervical foraminal stenosis will require surgical intervention.
2. Cervical Osteoarthritis
When the joints in the neck begin to degenerate, pain can occur. This is often referred to as neck arthritis, though the correct terms include cervical spondylosis and cervical osteoarthritis. No matter what name is used, the condition results in headaches that originate in the back of the head, a sensation that is strongest at the beginning and end of the day, but lessens during the day and radiating discomfort in the shoulder or shoulder blades.
Upon examination, the doctor may notice bone spurs in the neck. These often press on nerves, causing the pain. The usual treatment is to take anti-inflammatory painkillers such as ibuprofen and to rest when the pain is bad. Muscle relaxants and cortisone injections can be helpful, as well as traction to reduce the pressure on the neck.
3. Stenosis with Myelopathy
Cervical stenosis with myelopathy tends to occur mostly in the elderly. The condition is progressive and gradually tightens the spinal canal and pinches the spinal cord. This is more serious than the previously mentioned foraminal stenosis, because it will affect the entire body.
As the spine becomes more compressed, the patient will notice pain in their arms and legs, often sharp and shooting, similar to electrical shocks. Fine motor skills may be lost and it gradually becomes more and more difficult to walk, as the legs feel heavy and numb. Surgical spinal decompression is the only known treatment for this condition.
4. Degenerative Disc Disease
Cervical degenerative disc disease is characterized by the discs in the neck becoming worn out and thin. This can cause injury as the bone rubs against bone. Unfortunately, discs cannot repair themselves as they have no blood supply of their own. Pain management doctors will likely prescribe NSAIDs and heat compresses to reduce discomfort. Certain exercises may also help by strengthening the muscles in the neck. Surgery is a last resort, but may be necessary.
5. Strained Muscles
Perhaps one of the more common causes of neck discomfort is simply overuse. The muscles in the neck can be misused and strained, which causes ongoing tenderness. If not allowed to rest, the muscle ache may become worse.
In this case, rest and ibuprofen are usually more than enough to get the patient on the road to recovery again.
Pain management doctors can help the patient decide which method of treatment is the best option for the type of neck condition they have. While surgery is usually the last method to be tried, it is sometimes the best option if medication cannot help.