Why is My Neck Hurting?
Learn what causes neck pain, symptoms to watch for, and proven solutions to stop the hurt and get your life back.
Why is my neck hurting? Learn about medical treatments that can cure your neck pain.
If you finish your work day with a stiff or painful neck, you’re not alone. About half of all working adults suffer from neck pain and stiffness. While your neck pain or stiffness could be caused by lack of exercise, poor posture, or common daily habits, it may also be a sign of a progressive, degenerative spinal disease. Fortunately, you don’t have to wonder, and you don’t have to worry. We can help you determine the root cause of your neck pain and offer real solutions to reduce or eliminate that pain.
Understanding Why Your Neck Hurts
The neck, or cervical spine, is the top of the spinal column, a segment of seven vertebrae, as well as the associated discs, nerves and connective tissue. These bones, muscles and ligaments work together to protect the top section of the spinal cord, which runs from your brain to the small of your back, sending and receiving sensory information to and from your brain. So, your neck has to be strong, tough and flexible too.
To accomplish this important work, your neck is made up of a complex, complementary system of muscles, ligaments and bones that support and protect the spinal cord and remain flexible enough to allow you to interact with the world around you. However, if any of these elements are injured or irritated, the resulting pain or inflammation can lead to a loss of flexibility or function and diminished quality of life.
Common Causes of Neck Pain
It may not surprise you to learn that our modern lifestyles make all of us more susceptible to developing neck pain or other problems related to the cervical spine. Increasingly sedentary work, especially when combined with all that time reading on computers, smartphones or tablets often leads to poor posture and strain due to repetitive movement.
We also tend to carry heavy, unbalanced loads — purses, backpacks, briefcases or gym bags — which can lead to shifting our weight in an unbalanced way that adds strain to our cervical spine. And, if you follow the news, you’ve probably heard about “text neck,” a relatively new medical phenomenon indicated by pain and stiffness in the neck caused by spending too much time looking down at your digital devices. Contrary to what many people assume, “text neck” is not just affecting teenagers and college kids. We see a good number of middle-aged and senior patients complaining of pain caused by too much “screen time.”
What may surprise you is that all these “typical” daily activities as well as their accompanying minor aches and pains can lead to serious medical conditions such as Osteoarthritis of the neck, or Cervical Spondylosis. This condition describes the wear and tear of vertebrae and spinal discs in the cervical (upper) spine. This damage leads to inflammation and irritation around the spine, as well as bone spurs (osteophytes) on vertebral joints.
Both men and women are afflicted with Cervical Spondylosis by age 60
Nearly 9 out of 10 men and 8 out of 10 women show signs of Cervical Spondylosis by the time they reach their 60s. Unfortunately, this cause of neck pain can sneak up on you. In many cases, Cervical Spondylosis begins developing in your 40s, but, because the progression is so gradual, you don’t notice the symptoms until they cause significant pain.
Osteoarthritis is not the only cause of frequent or severe neck pain. Injury can lead to muscle strain, whiplash and damage to spinal vertebrae, discs, nerves and connective tissue. And wear and tear over time may cause inflammation, irritation or damage that can become any of the following serious, progressive conditions:
Cervical Pain Causes and associated medical treatments:
Cervical Disc Degeneration — progressive damage to the protective outer shell of the spinal discs in the cervical spine
Cervical Spinal Stenosis — an abnormal narrowing of the cervical spinal canal that affects the spinal cord and nerve roots
Facet Joint Inflammation — when inflamed or irritated, Facet Joints on the vertebrae cause pain and limit flexibility of the spine
Pinched Nerves (Radiculopathy) — pressure on spinal nerves caused by damage to vertebral disc
Spinal Disc Herniation — tearing in a spinal disc allows the cushioning liquid in the disc to leak out, gradually deflating the disc
These conditions may cause serious pain, irritation and stiffness in your neck. If you are experiencing these symptoms, your best option is to seek a conclusive medical diagnosis, so you can begin treatment, with the goal of restoring normal, healthy function, without pain.
Treating Neck Pain
Initial symptoms of minor neck injury or disease — including occasional discomfort, stiffness and popping sounds (crepitus) — may be relieved by rest, over-the-counter pain relievers or anti-inflammatory drugs, as well as physical therapy and low-impact exercise. The intent of these treatments is to offer temporary pain relief and to prevent any further injury to the neck. If you are suffering from neck pain, be sure to speak with a doctor before beginning an exercise regimen.
When preliminary treatments are no longer effective, Dr. Skaliy may recommend one or more of these minimally-invasive treatments to relieve pain and reduce inflammation.
Facet Joint or Medial Branch Injections - combination of anti-inflammatory and anesthetic medications to provide short-term pain relief
Radio frequency Ablation - numbing or blocking of specific nerves transmitting pain signals, offering longer-term pain relief
Steroid Injections - relieve inflammation and irritation causing pain, offering temporary pain relief
In certain cases of chronic neck pain or other severe symptoms, some physicians may recommend surgical treatment to remove bone spurs that may be causing pain or any other tissue putting pressure on spinal nerves. In advanced cases, doctors may recommend Cervical Fusion surgery.
All cervical spine surgeries come with inherent risks. Even surgical procedures considered “minimally invasive” can present risks and unwelcome side-effects. Because of these risks, and the uncertain prognosis of many neck surgeries, Dr. Skaliy recommends nonsurgical options to treat chronic neck pain.
Here’s the most important thing to remember…
You do not have to continue suffering with debilitating neck pain, stiffness and inflammation. At Atlanta Spine Specialists, we help people just like you, every day, by offering proven solutions that relieve their joint or spine pain and other symptoms, without invasive surgery. Our goal is to get your back to life! Click here to schedule an appointment with Dr. Skaliy today.