Neck Pain – Causes & Treatment

In this week’s newsletter, we cover aspects related to Neck pain which we came across in American College of Rheumatology’.

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WHAT CAUSES NECK PAIN?

Most episodes of neck pain are caused by the wearing out of the structures (mechanical) of the neck, which is associated with aging, or with overuse of the neck or arms. About 10% of instances of neck pain are associated with systemic illnesses, such as polymyalgia rheumatica.

The common mechanical disorders that cause neck pain are the following:

  • Muscle strains usually related to prolonged physical activity such as sitting at computer terminals for extended periods of time. Acute strain also may occur after sleeping in an awkward position.
  • Osteoarthritis resulting from the narrowing of the intervertebral discs (pieces of cartilage between the bones [vertebra]) of the spine. The neighboring vertebrae grow spurs in response to the increasing pressure placed on them. The bony growths can cause localized pain in the neck or arm related to nerve compression.
  • Herniated intervertebral discs cause arm pain more frequently than neck pain. The pinching of a nerve in the neck causes severe arm pain (brachialgia). Disc herniations may cause a loss of function of the nerve that may include a loss of reflex, feeling, or muscle strength.
  • Spinal stenosis is narrowing of the spinal canal that causes compression of the spinal cord (cervical myelopathy). The narrowing is caused by disc bulging, bony spurs, and thickening of spinal ligaments. The squeezing of the spinal cord may not cause neck pain in all cases but is associated with leg numbness, weakness, and loss of bladder or rectum control.
  • Whiplash is a suddenly fast forward and backward injury to the soft tissues of the neck, most commonly caused by rear-impact car accidents. The pain and stiffness associated with these accidents generally develop 24-48 hours after the injury.

HOW IS NECK PAIN TREATED?

Maintaining motion is an important part of therapy for neck pain

  • While regular exercise should be discontinued until the neck pain is improved, movement of the neck is encouraged. Gradual movement in all directions of motion of the neck stretches muscles that may be excessively tight. This exercise may be particularly helpful while under a stream of warm water during a shower.
  • Five- to 10-minute ice massages applied to a painful area within the first 48 hours of the start of pain can help relieve pain as can heat, which relaxes the muscles. Heat should be applied for pains of durations greater than 48 hours. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including aspirin, frequently are enough to control episodes of neck pain, and muscle relaxants may help those with limited motion secondary to muscle tightness.
  • Individuals with increased stress may have contracted neck muscles. Massage therapy has proven helpful for those with chronic muscular neck pain.
  • A small minority of neck pain patients, particularly those with arm pain or signs of spinal cord compression, require cervical spine surgery. A new option for neck surgery is an artificial disc. This device made of metal and plastic, is the correct choice for a very small number of individuals with neck pain only and no other abnormality in the cervical spine than a worn out disc. . Disk Dr. Neck NG 20 is a ambulatory traction device which helps to reduce intra-discal pressure by relieving neck pain and assisting patient recovery using innovative expansion system. Disk Dr. Neck CS 300 is light and easy to use, ambulatory traction collar which helps to reduce pressure within the cervical spine using an innovative longitudinal expansion system. The expandable Cervical Traction Collar (rear section), along with the Fixed Chin Collar (front section), reduces disc pressure within the cervical spine effectively eliminating pain.
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