NECK AND ARM PAIN
Your neck, or “cervical spine,” is a complex system of nerves, bones, muscles, ligaments, discs and other soft tissue that work together to support your head, protect your spinal cord and facilitate blood flow to the brain.
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Neck and Arm Pain
Your neck, or “cervical spine,” is a complex system of nerves, bones, muscles, ligaments, discs and other soft tissue that work together to support your head, protect your spinal cord and facilitate blood flow to the brain. Damage or stress to any of these elements can result in neck pain, weakness or decreased range of motion.
Because the neck has to be incredibly flexible while carrying so much weight — your head weighs about 11 pounds — it really doesn’t take much strain for your neck to start hurting. Here are a few more common causes of neck pain that many of us deal with on a regular basis:
● Too much “screen time” with mobile devices (“text neck”)
● Slouching at a desk, looking at the computer for extended periods
● Reading in your favorite chair or falling asleep on the couch
● Incorrect sleeping posture elevating the head
● Repeatedly turning your head back and forth
● Prolonged periods of stress or anxiety
These everyday activities may not seem like they could cause any real injury to your neck, but, over time, daily activities could add stress and strain to the vertebra and soft tissue in your neck, leading to repetitive stress injury or even degenerative disease.
Sometimes, we can injure our necks and not even realize it. Delayed neck pain is very common with automobile accidents (whiplash), slip and falls and after lifting something too heavy or improperly. These injuries may have symptoms that we assume are minor or signs of “just getting older.” But any of the following could indicate a more serious issue.
Are you experiencing:
Stiffness or pain after staying in one position for any length of time
Inability to turn your head or bend your neck
Numbness or tingling that starts in the neck and radiates into your shoulders or arms
Loss of balance or dizziness
Loss of flexibility
Grinding or popping in your neck (crepitus)
Aching, sharp or stabbing pain
Pain that starts in the neck and radiates into the shoulders
Waking up in pain “for no reason”
While some neck pain will go away on its own, if you have been experiencing increasing pain, or the pain comes and goes, but never quite goes away for good, your neck pain may be a sign of a serious medical issue. To better understand what might be happening, let’s take a closer look at your neck.
Anatomy of the Neck
The cervical spine (neck) connects the skull to the thoracic spine (upper back) through a series of seven vertebrae, C1 through C7, which stack on top of each other to create the upper portion of the spinal column. Each of these vertebra, as well as the nerves, tendons, discs and other connective tissue protect the neck and allow it to function properly.
C1 (Atlas) and C2 (Axis) — these “top” vertebra are the smallest. The Atlas is responsible for about half of the head’s forward and backward motion. The shape of the Axis allows the Atlas vertebrae to rotate around it, allowing for about half the head’s back and forth rotation.
C3 through C6 — Each of these four vertebrae share the same basic size, shape and function: to absorb shock and distribute weight. These vertebrae, plus C7, are also home to the Joints of Luschka, which assist with forward and backward movement of the neck, while holding the joints steady, so they don’t allow too much side to side bending.
C7 —the final cervical vertebrae, C7, connects with the thoracic vertebrae to continue the spinal column. Thanks to the more prominent bony protrusions (spinous process) on this vertebra, this is likely the one you feel when you touch the back of your neck.
Each vertebra also has a pair of Facet Joints , which help limit and control range of motion and rotation along the spinal column. Within these joints are Medial Branch Nerves , which send pain signals to the brain.
Common Causes of Neck Pain:
Because the Cervical Vertebrae are strong, flexible and built to take strain while remaining very steady, most neck pain is the result of either serious injury or long-term wear and tear. In most cases, minor neck strain or stiffness will abate on its own over time. If you are experiencing minor or infrequent neck pain, here are some suggestions that may help you feel some relief:
Avoid strenuous exercise, but you may want to also avoid sitting or lying in the same position for extended periods.
Apply cold and/or heat. Ice should go first, in the first two days, to reduce inflammation. Heat can help increase blood flow, which speeds healing.
Stretching or low-impact exercise can loosen tight muscles and tendons to restore range of motion.
Massage to relieve tension and release any stiffness that may cause pain
Improve your posture. Slouching or leaning can place undue pressure on your spine. Sitting up straight allows the spine to work most efficiently.
Limit screen time on mobile devices. We spend so much time looking down at our phones, doctors have identified a new condition called “text neck.”
Causes of more severe neck pain may include falls, auto collisions, sports injuries or hyperextension. Any of these immediate injuries may result in trauma to the connective tissue (sprain, strain or whiplash) or vertebral fracture (broken neck), as well as injuries to the nerves or spinal cord. However, your neck pain may also be the result of degeneration or repetitive stress, indicating one or more of the following
Cold Weather and Joint Pain: Is There a Connection?
Conditions Associated With Neck and Arm Pain
Facet Joint Pain
Facet Joints, found on both sides of the back of the spine, guide and limit the motion of the spine. When working properly, they allow flexibility in the back while limiting overextension. However, when inflamed or irritated, these joints can cause serious pain…
Medial Branch Inflammation
If vertebrae facet joints are inflamed, medial branch nerves send pain signals to the brain. Conditions known to cause Medial Branch Inflammation include Osteoarthritis, Spinal Stenosis and traumatic injury…
One of the most common causes of pain in your back, knees, hips and other joints is a progressive degenerative condition known as Osteoarthritis. Symptoms include increasing stiffness, tenderness and weakness in the affected joints. As it progresses…
Spinal stenosis is an abnormal narrowing of the spinal canal that affects the spinal cord and nerve roots. This narrowing can put added pressure on your spinal cord and the nerves traveling through the spine to the extremities causing intense pain…
Degenerative Disk Disease
Our spinal vertebrae and spinal cord are protected by fibrocartilaginous discs that act as shock absorbers, helping our spines move, flex and support our weight. Over time, the outer shell of these discs can be damaged by injury or simple wear and tear. As these tears increase, without healing, the result can be debilitating chronic pain…
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome
Complex regional pain syndrome is an uncommon form of chronic pain that usually affects limbs. Complex regional pain syndrome typically develops after an injury, surgery, stroke or heart attack, but the pain…
Diagnosing and Treating Neck Pain
During your initial physical examination, Dr. Skaliy will ask about your personal and family medical history, then complete a physical examination in order to better assess the cause of your neck pain and develop an effective treatment plan.
During the physical examination, be prepared to answer specific questions about your symptoms including:
Where it hurts
When it hurts
How long it hurts
What is the level of your pain
Does anything make it better or worse
Are you currently taking any medication, whether related to the pain or not
Any recent injuries or accidents, even if you don’t think it’s related
Diagnostics may also include medical imaging like MRIs, X-rays, or CT scans.
The treatment protocol for conditions causing neck pain differ based on the type, severity and location of the pain. Dr. Skaliy specializes in minimally-invasive and nonsurgical solutions for conditions that cause pain.
Better Solutions for Neck and Arm Pain
Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS), also called epidural nerve stimulation (ENS), is a minimally-invasive procedure with a 40-year track record of delivering proven relief to patients experiencing chronic pain. In this treatment, a safe and effective device delivers soothing electrical stimulation to the spinal cord, resulting in significant pain relief to the affected area…
Medial Branch Injections
When spinal facet joints are inflamed, Medial Branch nerves send pain signal to the brain. To ease pain, anesthetic is injected into the joints. This medication may be administered as a temporary or more long-term pain relief procedure…
At Atlanta Spine Specialist we are dedicated to helping people live a pain free life. In addition to these treatments we offer other minimally invasive treatments to heal your body.
Please call our office to learn more about these options (770) 844-3242.