Neck pain is commonly experienced and is often associated with headaches, arm or shoulder pain. Most people will experience neck pain at some stage of their life. Neck pain has been associated with our modern lifestyle and the use of computer equipment, or it may be associated with an injury like whiplash. Neck pain can even be caused by sleeping in the wrong position, poor posture or overuse of the neck’s muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
Neck pain develops differently in each patient. It can often occur immediately after an injury, as a delayed response to an injury, occur slowly over time, such as by the end of a work day, or even start without any other precipitant.
Neck pain can be either mechanical, neuropathic, or sometimes both. Neck pain can often feel debilitating and cause excessive suffering, particularly if experienced over a long timeframe. Irritated nerve pathways can cause additional pain, which can be experienced in the shoulder, head, arm and hands. Brachialgia (or radicular pain) is the technical term for arm pain, which is frequently caused by a compressed or pinched nerve in the neck. This can often cause patients to feel numbness, tingling or weakness.
You should note changes on scans do not always indicate the cause or the source of pain. You can have pain with a “normal” scan. Scans do not show pain.
Definition / Classification
Acute neck pain is pain that has occurred for less than six weeks. If you are experiencing acute neck pain and need help managing symptoms, you should first visit your general practitioner or emergency department.
Neck pain experienced for longer than three months is classified as persistent pain. Please note the terms acute and persistent have no correlation to the severity of pain experienced, but rather refers to the timeframe of the experienced pain.
There are various causes for persistent headaches, neck pain and referred arm or hand pain, including:
- Facet joint disease
- Nerve root compromise and radiculopathy
- Spinal Canal Stenosis
- Disc disease
- Soft Tissue injury and deconditioning
- Degeneration or Spondylosis
Do not worry if the exact cause of your neck pain cannot be identified. Effective treatment is often still available and there are many options for pain management.
Signs and Symptoms
Neck pain is often not just experienced within the neck. Pain can be experienced in the neck, shoulder, arm or hand, and can often result in headaches. Simple actions such as coughing, sneezing, and other household duties can affect pain.
Those suffering from neck pain may often experience:
- Stiff neck and discomfort upon turning the head.
- Stabbing pain at a certain point in the neck.
- Sore or tender areas of the neck.
- Muscle spasms.
- Pain throughout the shoulders, arms or fingers.
More serious symptoms of neck pain include tingling, numbness, radiating pain, or problems with balance, coordination or hand clumsiness and weakness.
Neck pain signs and symptoms will vary from each patient depending on which structure is causing the pain. However, it is important to note if you have any associated muscle weakness or loss of sensation in the arm or hand, as these are more serious symptoms and can have a serious causes. Symptoms can often help to identify the cause of pain and appropriate treatments.
Painkillers, icing the sore area, and normal physical activity is often the best way to manage acute neck pain. Simple modifications to your daily lifestyle, such as more rest, better posture, or avoiding strenuous activities, can also help to reduce acute neck pain. If acute neck pain becomes too severe to live with, it is best to gain assistance from QPain’s specialists.
QPain can diagnose your pain, and create a tailor made treatment program specifically for you.
Treatments QPain offer for neck pain include:
- Non-procedural treatments:
- Procedural treatments:
- Minimally invasive surgery and non-surgical treatment.
- Some instances of arm or hand pain may require epidural steroid injections or nerve root injections. This helps to relieve pain and help discover a diagnosis.
- Some recurring headaches, neck or arm pain can be helped by radiofrequency neurotomy or spinal cord stimulation.
- As a last resort, referrals can be made to a spinal surgeon if more invasive procedures are required. This will occur if non-surgical options are not helping to alleviate the neck pain.
The best treatment is often a combination of all of these, which is considered multimodal or multidisciplinary treatment. Pain management programs can help individuals experiencing neck pain who want to improve their quality of life and function. If you would like a program arranged for you, make an inquiry with your QPain specialist today.