Neck therapy relief pain
by Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR
Nathan Wei is a nationally known board-certified rheumatologist and author of the Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit. It's available exclusively at this website... not available in stores.
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Most cases of neck pain originate from muscle or ligament strain and can be treated without surgery.
Getting the patient through the acute phase involves breaking the pain cycle. It's critical to relieve stress on the neck and also to relieve muscle spasm.
Cervical collars limit movement and support the head taking the load off the neck. Limiting neck movement and reducing the
weight of the head gives muscles rest during healing.
Cervical traction may be prescribed for home use. This form of traction gently lifts the head, stretching neck muscles while increasing the size of the neural foramina (passageways for nerves).
Depending on the cause of the neck pain, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), muscle relaxants, and/or short-term use of narcotics may be prescribed. In some cases tender point injections with anesthetic are beneficial.
Often physical therapy (PT) is incorporated into the treatment plan. Heat/cold, ultrasound, and massage may help relieve pain and stiffness. Therapeutic exercise can help build strength and increase range of motion. Massage therapy may help when tight muscles aggravate the problem. Therapists also educate the patient about their condition and teach posture correction and relaxation techniques.
Topical ointments, either over the counter or prescription, and creams can be soothing. Anesthetic patches are sometimes used.
Epidural injections may be useful when disc problems are responsible for the pain. Facet blocks are injections into the small joints at the back of the cervical spine. For osteoarthritis, these blocks are often beneficial.
In patients where muscle spasm is a significant problem, Botox injections often work well.
Seldom does neck pain require surgical intervention. Indications for surgery include progressive neurological deficit or unrelenting pain despite conservative treatment.
The type of surgical procedure is dependent on the patient's needs. The surgeon considers the patient's medical history, age, general physical condition, occupation, and other factors. Cervical spinal surgery is delicate and requires a skilled surgeon.
Prevention can be a key to avoiding neck pain in the future. Avoid activities that cause the neck to hyperflex or hyperextend, maintain good posture, and take frequent stretch breaks from desk/computer work. Make the work place ergonomically correct so as to avoid repetitive stress injury.
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