For many Americans, whether it’s neck pain, back spasms, or headaches, pain has unfortunately become a part of life. In fact, the CDC estimates that approximately 50 million U.S. adults suffer from chronic pain. Neck pain, whether chronic or acute, can be particularly frustrating. Our necks have an important job. They provide support for our heavy skulls while also allowing movement. The neck is the most flexible part of the spine and its movement is crucial for our day-to-day activities. With the daily task of holding up the weight of what amounts to a bowling ball, it’s understandable that the neck might experience some wear and tear. Fortunately, there are many treatments available to reduce or eliminate pain in the neck.
What is causing my neck pain?
There are many different causes for neck pain, some of which include arthritis, cervical spondylosis, musculoskeletal wear and tear, posture, or even a sudden trauma. Some neck pain can be caused by a condition called Text Neck Syndrome, which occurs when the head and neck are bent forward for long periods of time, often because our attention is focused on a phone or laptop screen. Trauma is also a trigger for neck pain. Anything from a bad car accident to an accident while working out in the yard can cause trauma to the neck. Repetitive actions can also create stress on the spine and joints themselves, which can lead to degenerative changes in the spine and discs.
Sometimes degeneration and trauma work hand in hand. Think of your neck as a pair of jeans. After wearing a pair of jeans for a while, you start to notice areas of the fabric become thinner, turn white, and, with the right amount of force, sometimes even rip. The same is true for your neck. You can experience years of degeneration and, with the right trauma, your neck might start producing pain.
When should I see a doctor for my neck pain?
It’s important to understand that pain isn’t normal. If you experience pain radiating from your neck to your shoulders or upper arms, it’s a good indication that you should find a physician to evaluate your symptoms. Pain recurring daily, as well as numbness or tingling, are also signs you should speak with a doctor. Pay close attention to any neck pain following a trauma, like a fall or a car accident. The trauma could have uncovered some undetected degeneration or caused an entirely new injury that would require treatment.
What can I expect from treatment?
The first step in treating neck pain is determining a diagnosis. Your doctor needs to understand where the pain is coming from and why it’s there. Tests like X-rays or MRIs will help doctors understand the root of the pain, whether it is arthritis, degenerative disc disease, or even a herniated bulging disc.
Your treatment will differ depending on the cause of your neck pain. Your doctor will evaluate you and your symptoms to best determine the root cause. After evaluation, your doctor will address the impairments and can target specific areas which will significantly decrease your pain.
If pain is coming from further in the joints or disc, your doctor might look into other options including physical therapy or, in certain cases, more invasive injections like steroid injections. For very serious surgical cases, your doctor might refer you to a neurosurgeon.
In addition to in-office treatment, many forms of neck pain require personal changes. This includes home stretches and exercises, medication, applying heat, postural adjustment, and other lifestyle modifications. Neck pain is often derived from chronic conditions like arthritis, which require continued vigilance to manage your pain. Although there is no cure for arthritis or similar conditions, doing some of these things daily has a good chance of improving your life and slowing the progression of your condition.
How can I get started?
“When patients are able to commit to all the different kinds of lifestyle changes– the stretching, posture, and exercises– there’s a very significant improvement,” said Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Specialist, Saunora Prom, DO, FAOASM of TPMG Tidewater Sports and Osteopathic Medicine, Greenbrier in Chesapeake.
Pain can keep us from enjoying the things we love. If you’re suffering from neck pain, see a TPMG doctor today. With the help of our physicians, you can find a reduction of your symptoms and return to work and play.
About Dr. Saunora Prom, DO, FAOASM
Saunora Prom, DO, FAOASM started Tidewater Sports & Osteopathic Medicine, Greenbrier in 2011 to provide the Hampton Roads area with a variety of interventions for orthopedic issues and with a vision to bring non-surgical options to the forefront of orthopedic medicine. As many musculoskeletal issues do not require surgery, Dr. Prom first strives to find a true root cause of pain and the right personal treatment for his patients. As a sports medicine specialist, he is an ideal physician for the “weekend warrior” and “industrial athlete”, as well as the non-athlete; including those who wish to become active or begin an exercise program. He also provides the latest in concussion treatment, including ImPact testing and OMT.