Neck pain affects about a third of American men and women every year, and for about half of those people, painful symptoms will persist or recur. Nearly three-quarters of adults will have neck pain that interferes with their regular activities.
Neck pain may be common, but the good news is, there are treatments to relieve pain and restore normal range of motion. At Vulcan Pain Management, Victor Mendoza, MD, and his team focus on custom neck pain treatments tailored to each patient’s unique symptoms, health profile, and goals for optimal relief and satisfaction.
If you have chronic or severe neck pain, here are five factors that could be to blame.
#1: Strained muscles
Your neck muscles have a big job to perform. Not only do they need to keep your neck flexible and promote a free range of movement, but they also need to support the weight of your head (about 10-11 pounds on average). Spending a lot of time hunched over your computer or smartphone is a common cause of neck pain (so common, it has a nickname — tech neck). Keeping your neck bent when sleeping or even just watching TV can cause muscle strains, and so can chronic stress.
#2: Joint degeneration
Wear and tear on your neck can take a toll on your neck joints. As you get older, that wear and tear can cause osteoarthritis (also called cervical spondylosis), gradually wearing down the protective cartilage lining that helps your neck move without pain. Osteoarthritis often occurs alongside bone spurs, hard projections at the edges of your vertebrae that irritate nerves and interfere with motion.
#3: Nerve compression
The excess flexibility in your neck compared to the rest of your spine means this area also has a greater risk for disc problems, including herniated discs and compressed or “pinched” nerves. When a nerve is compressed, you can have a lot of pain in your neck and sometimes in your shoulders, upper back, and arms, too. Bone spurs are another common cause of nerve compression in your neck.
#4: Traumatic injury
Rear-end collisions — even fairly minor ones — can cause your neck to snap back and forth quickly, resulting in painful whiplash symptoms. Whiplash happens when that quick motion injures or tears the soft tissues in your neck, causing inflammation and persistent pain. Falls and being struck by an object can also cause neck injury and pain.
#5: Disease or infection
Sometimes, chronic neck pain is caused by an infection or an underlying disease. Inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis can cause considerable joint damage, while tumors can press on nerves and interfere with movement. Infections also cause inflammation, in addition to potential damage to the structures of the neck.
Treating neck pain
Before recommending any treatment for your neck pain, Dr. Mendoza will evaluate your neck with a physical exam and sometimes diagnostic imaging or lab tests. Depending on the cause of your pain, he may recommend:
- Medication to reduce pain and inflammation
- Physical therapy to relieve muscle strain
- Lifestyle changes to improve posture and ergonomics
- Temporary neck brace to promote natural healing
- Steroid injections to reduce inflammation and nerve pain
Your treatment may include one or several approaches to get you the relief you need.
If you have neck pain, we can help you feel better. Call our Birmingham, Alabama, office or book an appointment online, and let Dr. Mendoza and his team create a treatment plan just for you.