FAQs on Neck Pain and Treatment Options in Nashville, Murfreesboro, Brentwood TN

The cervical spine is composed of small bones (vertebrae) that begin at the base of the skull and extend down to the lower abdomen. The vertebrae, ligaments, and muscles provide stability to the spine, allowing for mobility and support. The neck is vulnerable to injury, and many conditions can cause pain of the neck.

What causes neck pain?

The cause of neck pain occurs due to abnormalities of the soft tissues, which include the muscles, nerves, and ligaments, as well as the intervertebral discs. The most common causes of neck pain are soft-tissue abnormalities, which occur from sprain or wear and tear. In rare circumstances, infections or tumors cause neck pain. Neck problems are often a source of shoulder, back, and arm pain.

What conditions are associated with neck pain?

There are several conditions associated with neck pain. These include:

  • Cervical disc degeneration – Also called spondylosis, this occurs when the intervertebral discs shrink and loose water content. In cervical disc degeneration, the vertebrae spaces narrow, adding stress to the joints of the spine.
  • Chronic strain – Usual, everyday activities cause neck pain, such as poor posture when watching TV or reading, bending over a desk for hours, sleeping in an uncomfortable position, and twisting or jarring the neck while exercising.
  • Neck injury – The neck is flexible, so it is vulnerable to injury. The neck is often injured during motor vehicle accidents, contact sports, or falls. A rear end automobile collision can hyperextend the neck, causing it to shift in a backward motion beyond normal limits (whiplash).
  • Radiculopathy – This occurs from a herniated (slipped) disc, and it causes pain down the arm on the affected side.
  • Myofascial pain – Described as an aching in the muscles, this occurs from poor posture.
  • Spinal stenosis – This is a condition characterized by narrowing of the spinal canal. The spinal cord and nerve roots become compressed (pinched), producing a tingling pain down the arm.
  • Other causes – This includes fibromyalgia, ruptured disc, sprains, stenosis, and infection.

How is neck pain treated?

The pain management specialist bases neck pain treatment on the underlying cause of the discomfort. Treatment options include:

  • Medications – There are many medications prescribed for acute and chronic forms of neck pain. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs will reduce inflammation, whereas muscle relaxants can help with muscle spasms.
  • Physical therapy – The rehabilitation of neck injuries occurs in three stages. During the acute stage, the physical therapist and doctor treat the pain and inflammation. Once the problem is stable, the therapist uses ultrasound, electrical stimulation, and ice therapy for relief of pain. In the second stage, the therapist teaches strengthening and flexibility exercises. The maintenance stage involves a fitness program, designed to minimize the recurrence of injury and pain.
  • Trigger point injection (TPI) – Trigger points are painful spots on the soft tissues and muscles of the shoulders and upper back. TPI involves injecting a numbing solution (lidocaine) into the trigger point. According to clinical research, the success rate for TPI is 100%, with almost two-thirds of patients reporting complete pain relief.
  • Facet joint injection (FJI) – To relieve neck pain, the cervical spine facet joints are injected with an anti-inflammatory steroid, with or without adding an anesthetic. FJI has an 83% efficacy rate, according to double-blind controlled studies regarding chronic neck and upper back pain.
  • Immobilization – After cervical strain (whiplash), a soft cervical collar is used to provide support to the neck. This immobilization device also relieves pressure and prevents injury.

Resources

Dhadwal, N, Hangan, MF, Dyo, FM, Zeman, R, & Li, J (2013). Tolerability and efficacy of long-term lidocaine trigger point injections in patients with chronic myofascial pain. International Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Makela M, Heliovaara M, Sievers K, et al. (1991). Prevalence, determinants, and consequences of chronic neck pain in Finland. Am J Epidemiology, 134:1356-1357.

Manchikanti L, Singh V, Falco FJ, Cash KM, & Fellows B (2008). Cervical medial branch blocks for chronic cervical facet joint pain: a randomized, double-blind, controlled trial with one-year follow-up. Spine, 33(17):1813-20.