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Neck Pain Should Be Taken Seriously

Chronic neck pain affects thousands of people each year and has many different causes. Issues range from the simple, such as muscular pain from sleeping in an awkward position, to the more serious, such as spinal stenosis. If you are experiencing neck pain that lasts more than a few days, is severe or is accompanied by radiating pain or numbness into the arm, you should seek medical assistance. Board-certified pain management physicians are experienced in identifying the various sources of neck pain.

With an accurate diagnosis, the most effective treatment can be determined that may relieve your pain and may prevent further or potentially permanent damage.

Recognizing the Cause

Musculoskeletal neck pain is generally the result of one of three types of injury: trauma, chronic overuse or degenerating age-related disease. Traumatic injuries from a fall or accident can result in a number of conditions, including whiplash, herniated discs and muscle strains. Chronic overuse can put strained muscles and discs at further risk for injury during even simple activities such as sitting at a computer too long, gardening, golfing, aerobics and housework. Furthermore, as we age, our necks also become more susceptible to osteoarthritis, disc degeneration and spinal stenosis. These conditions may progress slowly over the years, potentially leading to chronic pain that is typically positional and intensifies during or after certain activities.

Diagnosing the Source

Like most medical conditions, effective treatment starts with accurate diagnosis. Although diagnosing neck pain can be tricky due to overlapping symptoms, advanced imaging technology enables physicians to see problems more clearly. Tests such as x-ray, CT scan, and MRI are frequently used. In some cases, bone scan, discogram, EMG or myelogram may be necessary for a more comprehensive examination.

Resolving the Pain

Despite its complexity, more than 95 percent of neck pain can be resolved without surgery. In some cases, simple measures such as anti-inflammatory medications, heat or cold applications, physical therapy, exercise and traction are all that’s needed. Depending n the diagnosis, more sophisticated procedures may be recommended. Targeted trigger point injections relax stubborn knots of muscle. Epidural or facet joint injections may reduce pain for several months or even years. Facet joint radiofrequency neurotomy creates a longer-lasting, potentially permanent result by obstructing the nerve supply to an injured vertebral joint. Advanced regenerative treatments, such as prolotherapy and platelet rich plasma therapy, are specifically designed to promote natural healing of joints and ligaments, relieving pain by improving strength and stability. All of these procedures can be performed safely in a medical office setting, effectively resolving neck pain without general anesthesia, hospitalization or prolonged recovery.