NON-SURGICAL PAIN MANAGEMENT OPTIONS FOR NECK PAIN
People might suffer from chronic neck pain but are hesitant to undergo surgery. For their relief, there are non-surgical options that may reduce, even alleviate, your pain. If the neck pain is left untreated it can interfere with the healing process. It affects the immune system and leads to other undesirable results. This discomfort can hamper the rehabilitation process as it interferes with exercise and increases the risk of psychological distress.
Neck pain can be caused for a variety of reasons. Mostly neck pain is best treated without surgery that includes neck arthritis, muscle spasms, whiplash caused by car accident, and stress. Neck Pain can be managed with mild anti-inflammatory medicines, proper rest, or muscle relaxers, and giving physical therapy.
CAUSE OF NECK PAIN
To treat any pain it is important to know the underlying cause. The seven vertebrae that form the cervical region of the spine are responsible for a wide range of motion and flexibility. Neck pain can be caused by below reasons:
- Whiplash – Common cause of neck pain which is caused by any sudden force applied to the head like an accident. The weight of the head caused the heavy load on the cervical vertebrae and caused muscle strain leading to pain.
- Degenerative Discs – It is the cause of chronic neck pain. The cushioning disc between the vertebrae acts as shock absorbers which degenerate or tend to break down as you age. The fluid can also leak in the surrounding spaces (herniate) that causes pressure on the nerves in the area. Neck pain also affects the arms and hands as the nerves that radiate from the spinal cord within the cervical region travel along the length of the arms which when aggravated causes the pain and loss of function making even simple tasks difficult.
- Spinal Stenosis – The narrowing of the spinal canal due to degenerative cervical discs can lead to long-term pain. This is caused when you stretch your neck to read or write for a long time.
- Injury – Neck pain can be caused due to injuries like spine fractures, strain to surrounding muscles, or compression or pinching of area nerves. Osteoarthritis or bone spurs can also lead to chronic pain, loss of mobility and flexibility, and obstruct daily life activities. Despite the critical neck pain, there are several non-surgical therapies that may reduce or alleviate your pain, improve the range of motion in your neck and restore mobility, causing you to return to an active lifestyle.
DIAGNOSING NECK PAIN
Neck pain can be diagnosed using X-ray, MRI’s and Myelograms (reveals the amount of damage to the spine). These tests determine if the treatment can be done through invasive or non-invasive ways or if surgery is required for the treatment.
NECK PAIN RELIEF & TREATMENT OPTION
Some patients may have a serious condition cervical herniated disc or bone spurs that causes nerve or spinal cord compression in the neck. The pain radiates to the arm known as radiculopathy resulting in weakness and numbness. Spinal cord compression may also cause leg weakness, trouble using your arms or hands, changes in handwriting or even loss of motor control.
Pain management therapies are divided as below:
- Non-invasive and do not involve the use of medications
- Pain medications that are purely pharmacologic in nature
- Invasive Techniques
Majority of people suffering from neck pain can achieve relief with non-surgical treatment. Below are non-surgical treatments for mild to moderate neck pain.
- Physical Therapy – This increases the flexibility as well as strengthens muscles supporting the spine. The therapy involves usage of electrical stimulation, ultrasound, heat or ice, mobilization and exercises. Changing the physiology of the back is the only way of permanently relieving the pain of the back. This is done by exercise that makes it stronger, resistant to injury and more flexible.
- Exercise – Corrective exercises aim to take away neck pain caused by playing sports, personal injury, improper exercise, or simple everyday tasks like laundry. These exercises are specifically targeted at neck issues. Consistently completing these exercises helps the neck issues to disappear completely. Exercises that would help provide quick relief are-
- McKenzie method – Centralizing the pain helps treat the source of the pain. By extending the spine, patients experience significant relief in the pain as well as carry on with daily activities.
- Hydro therapy – Water therapy is effective for neck pain by treating the underlying causes of pain like reducing tension and stress, increasing blood flow to muscles, and relaxing the body. This is helpful in cases where land-based exercises are not possible due to intensity of pain, disability, decreased bone density etc. Water therapy is good for people suffering from Osteoarthritis, advanced osteoporosis and muscle strain.stretching exercises, aerobic routines and many others
- Medicines – Medicines lessen the swelling and reduce pain in the back and neck. The type of medication prescribed by the physician would depend on your symptoms and your level of pain. Medicines that helps relax the neck muscle as well as relieve pain are:
- Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAID) – These reduce the inflammation as well as reduce the pain. These include ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil), aspirin, naproxen and COX-2 inhibitors.
- Muscle relaxants – Helps in treatment of muscle spasms.
- Analgesics – Also known as pain medication like acetaminophen
- Antidepressants and anticonvulsants –These are used to treat neuropathic pain.
- Neuro-modulating medications – These are beneficial in neuropathic and muscular pain.
- Electrotherapy – Electrical stimulation directly blocks the transmission of pain signals along nerves of the affected area. This promotes the release of endorphins which are the natural painkillers produced by the body.
- Chiropractic Care – Chiropractic care involves massage therapy, spinal manipulation, and other techniques to ease pain and discomfort in the neck. Chiropractors use hot and cold therapy. Hot therapy increases the blood flow to the affected area thereby promoting the healing process. Whereas, cold therapy numbs the area and reduces the pain for a short period of time. These therapies combined will reduce the symptoms of neck pain and increase overall functioning of the body.
- Laser Therapy – Low‐level laser therapy (LLLT) uses low‐level lasers or light‐emitting diodes to alter cellular function providing relief in pain and stimulates healing of the tissue. The low level laser therapy increases the secretion of endorphins and serotonin, decreases prostaglandin synthesis thus increasing anti‐inflammatory effects, improves blood circulation in the affected area, and decreases oedema which eases the pain of the neck.
- Acupuncture – This is a non-invasive treatment which does not use drugs with least side-effects. Acupuncture uses needles, which stimulate the nervous system. These release endorphins in the muscles, spinal cord and brain. These chemicals relieve pain or trigger other chain reactions that would relieve the symptoms causing the pain.
Neck problems can be chronic or acute that prohibits your normal activity. Drugs and non surgical treatments help to relieve initial pain. These would not alter the musculature of the back that is necessary for long-term recovery. Exercise would strengthen the back muscles, make them more flexible as well as reduce the chances of occurring again in future. If these non-surgical options do not provide relief to you it is important to contact a specialist.
If you or anyone you know is suffering from neck pain, our expert providers at Specialty Care Clinics will take care of your health and help you recover.