Treating chronic neck pain

Treating chronic neck pain

You will get to know about neck pain from mild discomfort in performing neck movements to persistent debilitating pain, chronic neck pain can cause severe consequences if left unchecked.

Chronic neck pain is inflammation around the neck. It can vary among individuals showing stiffness, soreness around neck and shoulder, pain which may radiate down the shoulder and arm till fingers, or up to head.

Neck pain arises from numerous different conditions and is sometimes referred to as cervical pain. Neck pain can result from disorders of any of the structures in the neck, including the cervical vertebrae and inter-vertebral discs, nerves, muscles. It can also be related to blood vessels, organs and glands.

Some common causes of neck pain include: One of the most common causes is muscular strain, prolonged postures including poor sleeping posture, minor injuries and falls/whiplash, head injuries, wrong posture while using smart phones, upper back problems, pinched nerve, upper back problems, stress – physical, mental and emotional, ankylosing spondylitis, trauma to blood vessels or glands, infections like retropharyngeal abscess, epiglottitis, and degenerative disc diseases.

Neck pain ensues abruptly or gradually due to injury to the complex arrangement of muscles, ligaments, nerves, discs and bones of the neck.

Some of the common symptoms of neck pain include - pain in neck, upper back, shoulders, or arms, stiffness in neck and shoulder area, tenderness in the neck area and headaches. While nerve-related symptoms caused by pressure on the spinal nerve roots or spinal cord include the following symptoms: numbness, tingling or weakness in your arms or hands, a burning sensation when touched on the skin of the arms or hands, a pain that feels like a shock and extends into your arm or hand, leg numbness or weakness, and loss of the ability to control urination (bladder control) or bowel movements. This usually occurs when there is pressure on or injury to the spinal cord (Cervical Myelopathy).

When is neck pain dangerous? Chronic neck pain may occur due to systemic illnesses or arthropathy, meriting immediate attention. It can be due to an underlying pathological condition such as meningitis, myelopathy, or cancer.

Addressing chronic neck pain is of utmost importance when it is accompanied by persistent pain and numbness, weakness of limbs, loss of control over bowel and bladder, difficulty in maintaining balance and walking.

Treatment

Treatment of neck pain depends on the cause. For majority of people, neck pain can be treated conservatively with specialised spine physiotherapy through advanced spine rehabilitation.

Accurate Diagnosis: Treatment of neck pain depends on the cause. Digital Spine Analysis (DSA) which is the most technologically advanced spine function test to pinpoint weakened muscles that are the underlying cause of headaches with neck pain. The DSA test is very different from conventional tests such as MRIs and X-rays as these tests are only able to detect bone and tissue damage but they cannot identify loss of muscle function. Based on the findings of this test, specialised physiotherapists are able to determine the ideal treatment protocols for a patient.

Pain management and healing: Painkillers are not advised as they have serious side effects. Recommendations which help alleviate symptoms at home include applying heat or cold in the problem area. The latest technology called Frequency Specific Micro current (FSM) is the safest method of pain management that utilises and reduces pain and promote tissue repair at a cellular level. This is available at specialised spine physiotherapy clinics.

Neck pain is treated non-surgically by specialised spine physiotherapy. Surgery should be prescribed only after spine rehabilitation is explored. Accurate diagnosis for back pain problems can be diagnosed by spine specialists and the underlying problem can be addressed. This will ensure that back pain does not restrict mobility and compromise quality of life in the future.

Precision treatment and prevention: After a complete physical assessment of the spine, a specialised spine physiotherapist can help create targeted medical movements, kinetic control, mulligan mobilisation movements, and the McKenzie method after a complete physical assessment of the spine. These therapies will reduce pain, improve mobility, prevent recurrence and improve one's way of life.

(The author is Spine Physiotherapist & Clinic Head, QI Spine Clinic, Bengaluru)

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