December 15, 2013
Chronic Neck Pain: What are my Options?
If you suffer from neck pain, you may be considering surgery to reduce pain and restore quality of life. However, before undergoing surgery or other invasive procedures, it’s important to understand the source of your neck pain as well as other available treatment options. The following is an in-depth look at chronic neck pain, which includes information on alternative treatments and surgical procedures.
When is Surgery Necessary?
Although surgery is typically used as a last resort in treating neck pain, it is often necessary in situations like the following:
- When neck pain is caused by pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots. This type of pain is often associated with weakness, numbness or tingling in the legs, arms or hands, as well as a loss of bowel or bladder control.
- When neck pain is the result of an injury. Severe nick injuries resulting in fracture or instability may require surgery to correct the problem. This is typically done to reduce pain and prevent complications such as paralysis.
- When neck pain is caused by a condition called spinal stenosis. This disorder is characterized by a narrowing of the spinal canal and is usually brought on by age-related changes to the vertebrae, joints and discs of the spine.
- When neck pain is the result of arthritis. Arthritis in the neck, also known as cervical spondylosis, is typically brought on by either injury or age. In older individuals, cervical spondylosis is often the result of age-related changes to the joints, discs and vertebrae of the neck. These changes can lead to degeneration of the discs in the neck and back, which causes symptoms like chronic pain and stiffness as well as problems with mobility.
Alternative Treatments for Neck Pain
Before recommending surgery, a physician may suggest other remedies in the treatment of chronic neck pain. A few alternative treatments include the following:
- Physical therapy. Stretches and strengthening exercises may prove beneficial in individuals with chronic neck pain. Physical therapy can reduce pain and discomfort, improve mobility and significantly improve overall quality of life.
- Massage. Massage and other types of manual therapy can help reduce stiffness and pain as well as improve circulation and mobility.
- Traction. This therapeutic technique is used to stretch the neck as well as promote relaxation in the openings of the spinal nerves.
- Cervical collars. These devices, also known as neck collars, are often used in the temporary treatment of pain. Cervical collars work by restricting movement, which can promote healing and prevent further damage to the neck or spinal column.
Types of Neck Surgery
There are a number of surgical techniques that can reduce neck pain, improve mobility and prevent further complications to the neck and back. The most common types of neck surgery include the following procedures:
- Cervical spine fusion. This procedure involves the removal of damaged discs. When the affected discs are removed, healthy discs are fused into place, thus relieving nerve pressure and neck pain.
- Cervical discectomy. Cervical discectomies are typically performed when neck pain is the result of degenerative disc disease, and involve the surgical removal of two or more affected discs.
- Cervical disc replacement. These surgeries involve the removal and replacement of damaged or diseased cervical discs with artificial replacements. While disc replacement surgeries are fairly new procedures, they have shown to provide greater range of motion as well as reduce stress to healthy vertebrae.
With the information provided here, you’re better equipped to understand neck pain and your available treatment options.