Neck pain is pain in the posterior cervical area— located between the head and the shoulders (pain in the front would be located in the throat). Muscles, ligaments and tendons can all be affected by neck pain.
Causes and Symptoms of Neck Pain
Depending on the cause, neck pain symptoms can be limited to the neck or can also radiate down the arms or to the upper back. Accompanying symptoms can be mild annoyances to serious debilitations:
Stiffness or knots — is your body alerting you that may be overdoing an activity, sleeping on a unsupportive mattress or have poor posture
Headaches or migraines — can stem from tension in the neck muscles
Limited range of motion — your pain may prevent you from bending, flexing or extending your neck along its normal range of movement
Arm pain, tingling or numbness — pressure on the spinal nerves can also affect feeling in your arms, and even hands or fingers
Neck pain has a wide range of causes:
Poor Posture — from slouching in the office chair to slumping over our handheld electronic devices, continual misalignment of our lumbar (back) and cervical (neck) spine can lead to aches and pains.
Neck Trauma — vehicular crashes that jerk our heads (whiplash) to diving accidents that damage our cervical column such as a cervical spine fracture can create long-lasting, chronic neck pain.
Cancer — certain throat cancers can cause pain in the neck or throat, may also be accompanied by headaches, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), difficulty hearing, speaking or swallowing
Infections — meningitis, thyroiditis and other diseases can cause inflammation along with stiffness in the neck
Other diseases and conditions that affect the cervical discs (cushions between the cervical vertebrae) and the cervical facet joints (sliding joints that allow the vertebrae to glide over each other while bending, flexing and extending) often cause chronic neck pain:
Cervical Herniated Disc — a bulging disc can put pressure on a nerve, causing neck pain.
Foraminal Stenosis — a foramen is small opening that allows arteries, veins or nerves to pass from one area of the body to another. Foraminal stenosis is the narrowing of the opening, which can also pinch a neck nerve and cause discomfort.
Cervical Degenerative Disc Disease — the decline or deterioration of cervical discs from age or degenerative disc disease triggered by an injury can cause neck pain.
Cervical Osteoarthritis — the wearing down of the cartilage between the facet joints can bring about neck pain, symptoms are often worse when first getting up or later at the end of the day.
Cervical Radiculopathy — condition of the spinal nerve roots that can lead to pain, often caused by nerve compression.
Whatever the cause of your neck pain, an accurate diagnosis is key to having a successful treatment plan.
How Is Neck Pain Diagnosed?
You can prepare for your visit to the doctor by thinking about these questions ahead of time:
When did your neck pain first appear?
Does exercise or stretching help?
What makes it better? What makes it worse?
What treatments have you tried?
Has it gotten better over time? worse?
After a physical exam that will include a test of your range of motion, your physician will look at spinal imaging tests to determine what is causing your pain. X-rays, CT (computerized tomography) scans and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging to view bones and soft tissues) are used to diagnose neck, back and spine conditions.
What Are the Treatments for Advanced Neck Pain?
Non-surgical treatments for neck pain can be effective in alleviating pain in many cases involving overexertion of muscles or poor posture:
Over-the-counter pain medications
Neurological Surgery, P.C. (NSPC) has a skilled multidisciplinary team of neurosurgeons who are experts in revolutionary surgical techniques to treat chronic pain that hasn’t been alleviated with more conservative treatments. NSPC has convenient offices on Long Island and in the New York tri-state area. Our leading surgeons provide state-of-the-art neck pain surgery with remarkable results.
Anterior cervical discectomy—The neurosurgeon extracts the worn or damaged discs that are compressing the nerve. A small incision in the front (anterior) of the neck, allows the surgeon to more easily access the spine.
Cervical spinal fusion—This surgical technique joins two vertebrae together using bone or synthetic bone to prevent movement of the vertebrae.
Laminectomy—During a laminectomy, the lamina (back portion of the vertebrae) is removed to decrease pressure on the spinal cord or spinal nerves. The surgery may be combined with a herniated disc procedure.
Laminoplasty—The laminae (bony roof of the vertebrae) is re-fashioned to allow more room in the spinal canal for the spinal nerves.
Posterior cervical foraminotomy—Similar to an anterior cervical discectomy, this technique provides cervical decompression using microsurgical tools. The neurosurgeon removes bone spurs and segments of a herniated disc to relieve pressure on nerves from cervical stenosis.
NSPC offers superior back and spine care at offices in Great Neck, Rockville Centre, Lake Success, Bethpage, Commack, West Islip, Port Jefferson Station, Patchogue and New York City.