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Neck Pain

What is Neck pain?

Neck pain is a common complaint. Most causes of neck pain aren't serious. Neck muscles can be strained from poor posture — whether it's leaning into your computer at work or hunching over your workbench doing hobbies at home. Wear-and-tear arthritis also is a common cause of neck pain.
But sometimes neck pain can signify something more serious. Seek immediate medical care if you experience:

  • Shooting pain into your shoulder or down your arm
  • Numbness or loss of strength in your arms or hands
  • Change in bladder or bowel habits
  • Inability to touch your chin to your chest

What are the causes of neck pain ?

Neck pain can result from a variety of causes, ranging from overuse injuries to diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and meningitis.

Muscle strains: Overuse, such as too many hours hunched over a steering wheel, often triggers muscle strains. Neck muscles, particularly those in the back of your neck, become fatigued and eventually strained. When you overuse your neck muscles repeatedly, chronic pain can develop. Even such minor things as reading in bed or gritting your teeth can strain neck muscles.

Wear and tear: Just like all the other joints in your body, your neck joints tend to experience wear and tear with age, which can cause osteoarthritis in your neck.

Nerve compression: A variety of problems in your neck's vertebrae can reduce the amount of space available for nerves to branch out from the spinal cord. Best example of this is herniated disc.

Injuries: Injuries to the neck can result in short as well as long lasting neck pain.

Rheumatoid arthritis: Rheumatoid arthritis if properly not treated properly developes neck involvement.

Cancer: Rarely, neck pain can be caused by cancerous tumours in the spine. The cancer may have travelled to the spine from other parts of your body.

What are the tests required to diagnose the cause of neck pain ?

Your doctor often will be able to diagnose the cause of your neck pain and recommend treatment just by asking questions about the type, location and onset of your pain. In some instances, however, imaging tests, nerve tests or lab tests may be warranted.

Imaging tests
X-rays: X-rays can reveal areas in your neck where your nerves or spinal cord may be pinched by bone spurs or a bulging disk. But many people, especially those over 60, have these findings and don't experience any neck pain.

Computerized tomography (CT): CT scans help to visualise the bny structures as well as alignment of the bones.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): MRI reveals the alignment of the vertebrae to the nerves of the spinal cord and  is very useful imaging modality.

What is the treatment for neck pain?

Cervical spondylosis requires a multidisciplinary care. The first and most important thing is to make a correct diagnosis . The most important feature which helps your doctor to determine which type of treatment you should receive depends on whether the nerves are being compressed.

Exercises:  Exercises which increase the strength of the neck muscles is one of the key steps in the management.

Drugs
: Drugs have major role in treating neck pain due to rheumatoid arthritis. In other causes of neck pain drug therapy is more or less limited to decreasing the pain and inflammation.

Rest: In cases of neck pain occurring following injury a short period of rest is absolutely essential in the management. But wearing of collar for long time will result in weakening of the muscles of the neck and can result in further aggravation of pain.

Surgery: Surgery may be required in patients who do not respond to conservative treatment.