NECK PAIN SYMPTOMS, DIAGNOSIS, AND TREATMENT
Two out of every three individuals will experience neck pain at some point in their lives. Neck pain is a common symptom that can occur when your neck muscles are strained from poor posture from hunching over or leaning too far. Another common cause of neck pain is osteoarthritis.
Fortunately, neck pain is not typically a symptom of a more serious medical condition. You should only look to medical care if your neck pain is paired with loss of strength or numbness in your hands or arms. If you experience severe pain down your arm or into your shoulder, you should seek medical care as well. To further understand neck pain, its causes, and treatment options, keep reading.
WHAT CAUSES NECK PAIN?
Since your neck supports the weight of your head, it can be vulnerable to conditions and injuries that restrict motion and trigger pain. Some of the most common causes of neck pain are:
- Worn joints. Similar to other joints in your body, neck joints deteriorate with age. Osteoarthritis forces the cartilage or cushions between your vertebrae or bones to wear down. This causes your body to form bone spurs that cause pain by hindering the motion of the joints.
- Muscle strains. Spending too much time hunched over a computer screen can bring about muscle strains. Many people don’t realize that gritting your teeth or reading in a bed can cause muscle strains as well.
- Whiplash injuries. Whiplash injuries that occur during accidents can cause a passenger’s head to jerk backward and then forward. This can strain soft tissues of the neck and lead to neck pain.
HOW CAN I RELIEVE MY NECK PAIN?
Neck pain usually improves with home treatments. If you notice that your neck pain is severe, spreads down legs or arms, persists for several days without relief, and comes with tingling, numbness, weakness, or headaches, you should consult your physician.
If your neck pain does require the support of a physician, you can expect him or her to check to see how far you can move your head forward, back, and side to side. Your physician will also look for muscle weakness, tenderness, and numbness.
In addition, he or she may perform a variety of imaging tests to get a better understanding of the root cause of your neck pain. Some of these imaging tests may include:
- A CT scan that combines X-ray images from different directions to compile detailed views of the internal structures of your neck.
- A MRI that uses a strong magnetic field to produce detailed images of soft tissues and bones.
- An X-ray that explains areas in your neck where your spinal cord or nerves may be pinched by bone spurs.
Other tests such as electromyography (EMG) or blood tests may be conducted as well. If your neck pain may be related to a pinched nerve, an EMG test makes sense. EMG occurs when a fine needle is inserted into your skin to target a muscle and determine the speed of a nerve conduction. This information will be used to find out if certain nerves are properly functioning. Blood tests are also useful as they can explain whether infectious conditions may be the cause of your neck pain.
The team at Carolina Orthopaedic Specialists is dedicated to helping you alleviate your neck pain symptoms. Our treatment center is one of the best neck pain resources in the unifour area. Our team is staffed with board-certified surgeons that provide the highest quality of care and an MRI is not required in order to meet with one of our doctors.