Cervical Pain or Neck Pain
Cervical Pain or Neck Pain
What is it, what are possible causes and approaches and for treatment.
The cervical spine is comprised of 7 segmented vertebrae. The spinal cord, an extension of the brain, exists through an opening at the bottom of the skull. At each spinal vertebrae two sets of nerves controlling sensory and motor functions exit through bony openings called foramen. There are eight pairs of cervical spine nerves. The bones are held together by ligaments. Multiple muscle groups work in unison to create movement.
Neck pain can vary from mild to severe. Most common type neck pains include a) neck crick or stiff neck, b) injury from sports events or auto collision and c) due to joint arthritis or due to d) disc disorder.
The neck nerves may become irritated or compressed due to variety of factors:
1) Prolonged postures including computer desk work, texting or even during sleep,
2) Degenerated, herniated or ruptured cervical disc,
3) Narrowing of the foramen ( opening for nerves and blood vessels), which may be due to arthritic boney overgrowths called spurs. Arthritic boney or disc degeneration is more commonly seen our senior or aging population, and
4) Inflammatory response due to trauma e.g. sports injury like soccer foot ball or from auto-collision.
Neck pinched nerves with associated upper extremity pain, tingling or numbness is called cervical radiculopathy or radiculitis.
Presenting symptoms of a neck pinched nerve include: a) neck pain, b) neck muscle stiffness or spasms, c) pain radiating, from the neck nerve pathway down the neck to the shoulder, elbow, arm wrist and hand d) numbness or tingling sensations, AKA paresthesia, extending along the arm to the fingers, and possibly e) weakness of the arm, hand or finger muscles.
Consult with a qualified doctor of Chiropractic. After a review of the presenting history, a physical exam of the related neck muscles, and nerve levels allows for a determination of which spinal joint and the compromised nerve level. In serious cases exam findings may include loss of reflexes, and visual or measured atrophy AKA muscle wasting, due to loss of use.
Treatment for acute or chronic cases may include, conservative care which may include , instruction in proper posture, ergonomic work station modification, neck exercises, physiotherapy including ice (acute care), heat modalities, massage and spinal manipulation (SMT). SMT is performed to unlock vertebral mechanical joint dysfunction to allow for improved motion. Improved spinal joint function removes the nerve irritation and assists in the healing process. Acupuncture may also be a benefit of pain relief to some people.
X-rays, MRI or nerve conduction testing cab assist the doctor in arriving at a correct diagnosis and localize which nerve levels may be involved.
Many episodes of cervical nerve compression improve in a short period of time. However, If conservative care fails, pain medications, pain injections or if supported by MRI findings of a herniated disc, surgery, as a final resort may become necessary.