Your cervical spine, or neck, is a complex system of bones, joints, nerves, and muscles that manage a multitude of critical physiological functions.
Designed for strength, mobility, and stability, a healthy neck supports our heads and promotes nerve communication throughout the body. Most importantly, our necks house the arteries that transport blood from the heart to our brains, helping to maintain fully operational neurological and cognitive capabilities.
Neck Pain Can Directly Inhibit Performance of Daily Tasks and Routines
Unfortunately, for a large and growing population of U.S. patients, chronic neck pain directly impacts the cervical spine’s ability to complete a wide range of vital tasks, eventually compromising our physical, social, and psychological health.
A study released by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), revealed that, of all U.S. personal health care and public health spending, low back and neck pain expenses accounted for the third highest spending costs. Most pain management physicians categorize neck discomfort into three specific classifications:
- Acute: lasts less than 4 weeks
- Subacute: lasts anywhere from 4-12 weeks
- Chronic: lasts 3 or more months
When left untreated, a prolonged cervical disorder can cause significant discomfort, eventually decreasing an individual’s flexibility and mobility. This chronic and common musculoskeletal disorder can also profoundly diminish a person’s ability to complete routine tasks and enjoy a standard quality of life, making it essential to not only recognize the signs and symptoms of this neuropathic pain condition but also to understand the most effective preventative and curative care practices.
Factors That Can Cause Neck Injuries and Discomfort
Many patients are surprised to learn just how many neurological syndromes and pathologies can contribute to subacute and chronic neck pain. Some common conditions that may eventually lead to an unhealthy cervical spine include:
- Degenerative disc disease
- Cervical spondylosis
- Rare infections (tuberculosis, septic discitis, osteomyelitis)
A wide range of unexpected medical events can also lead to neck discomfort, including a car accident, sports injury, whiplash, head injury, pinched nerves, or a herniated disc. Even our daily routines and lifestyle choices can influence the health of our cervical spines.
Uncomfortable positioning when sleeping, extensive sedentary habits, and prolonged use of our cellphones can all deplete neck health and potentially cause permanent and significant damage.
Chronic Neck Pain: Signs and Symptoms
While the location and severity of discomfort varies, there are some telltale signs and symptoms associated with chronic neck pain, such as:
Most people will suffer from temporary aches and restricted mobility at some point. However, for chronic pain patients, stiff neck symptoms can last for a prolonged period of time.
Generally occurring in the lower levels of the cervical spine, this symptom is marked by a sharp or stinging sensation.
Often described as “burning” or “searing,” radiating pain varies in intensity, traveling through the nerves from the neck throughout the shoulders and arms.
Some chronic neck pain presents as a numb or tingling “pins-and-needles” feeling.
Concentrated pain and irritation in the neck can potentially impact the nerves and muscles that lead to the head, resulting in a pinched occipital nerve or tension headache.
Seek Chronic Pain Management Care
Like any neuropathic condition, effectively treating chronic neck pain often depends on the disorder or medical event that exacerbated the discomfort. The best way to manage presenting symptoms is to coordinate care with an experienced pain management facility.
A licensed and certified pain management specialist carefully examines and consults with each patient to diagnose the root cause of the condition as well as determine the best course of treatment to mitigate impairment and expedite healing. During the assessment, the attending physician will determine several key contributing factors, such as:
- Triggering event
- Pain levels
- Sleep routines
- Lifestyle habits
After understanding the full patient picture, the chronic pain specialist can develop a personalized therapy plan that will produce the best results possible.
Preventative Habits to Support Treatment Success
Seeking specialized, professional care should always be a patients’ first step when treating chronic neck pain. However, there are a multitude of preventative tips and strategies to consider as well. Common practices and routines that can help improve cervical spine health and strength include:
Getting enough rest can help boost a wide range of physiological functioning, including musculoskeletal strength. Note: Try to make a practice of counting pillows when counting sheep – sleeping with too many pillows under your head and neck can cause stiffness, pain, and limit cervical range of motion.
Many patients find that reversing bad posture habits is challenging. However, consistently changing positions and moving throughout the day can help reduce the risk of prolonged poor neck positioning.
Stuck at a computer all day? Adjust your screen so it’s elevated to eye level to reduce neck strain. Additionally, you should consider using hands-free talking and voice messaging on your phone to help avoid the aches and discomfort associated with text neck.
Understand Potential Limitations
Most importantly, patients with chronic neck pain should recognize that there are limits to their physical capabilities. Discuss strenuous activities with your doctor to ensure you’re not overdoing it while working back to cervical spine health.
Contact Florida Pain Relief Centers Team for Consultation
At Florida Pain Relief Centers, our team of innovative physicians and clinicians provide personalized treatments and therapies to help chronic pain patients regain mobility, function, and most importantly, their quality of life.
Contact us today to discuss our non-invasive care practices with one of our experienced pain management experts.