Determining which of the neck pain causes is involved is the first step to establishing an effective treatment plan.
Treatment for problems affecting the neck – or cervical spine – range from rest and over-the-counter medication to spinal surgery. It’s best to work closely with an experienced orthopedic specialist to build a customized course of treatment.
This blog describes three neck pain causes – herniated disc, spinal stenosis and cervical spondylotic myelopathy – as well as treatment options. You can learn more about diagnosis and treatment options here.
One of the most common neck pain causes is a herniated disc. Discs are part of the cervical spine anatomy and the entire spine; they are structures that lie between the vertebrae that make up the spine. A traumatic event or progressive degeneration of a disc can lead it to be herniated.
Diagnosis is made through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and patient examination.
For disc bulges, symptoms are mild, and the condition can be successfully treated without surgery. In more serious cases such as herniation or extrusion, symptoms are moderate to severe, and nonoperative treatment can be effective.
Another of the common neck pain causes is spinal stenosis, an umbrella term for two conditions.
Central stenosis is the narrowing of the central part of the spinal canal, and foraminal stenosis involves narrowing of the foramen, the archway containing the spinal nerve roots.
Diagnosis is made through MRI, computerized tomography (CT) scan and/or patient examination.
Treatment options include:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medication
- Physical therapy
- Epidural steroid injections
Cervical Spondylotic Myelopathy
Cervical spondylotic myelopathy is the most common type of spinal cord dysfunction in patients who are older than 55 years.
The first sign is typically a spastic change in the gait, followed by numbness in the upper extremity and loss of fine motor control in the hands.
Treatment is more aggressive than for other back and neck conditions, and spine surgery within the first year of the onset of symptoms is associated with a substantial improvement in the prognosis. Delaying surgical treatment can result in permanent impairment.
If you have questions about cervical spine injury or think you might need surgery for neck pain, consult an orthopedic specialist. They can provide a diagnosis and determine the best surgical or non-operative treatment for your specific issue.
If you're going to have spinal surgery, there are steps you can take to be prepared for a successful procedure and recovery.