Most people have experienced some form of temporary neck pain. An unusual movement, strenuous exercise, or even sleeping in the wrong position can mean you wake up with a stiff and achy neck. Luckily, in most cases, neck pain is resolved in a day or two. However, chronic neck pain is an entirely different experience. It’s a debilitating long-term condition that affects the individual on a daily or almost daily basis. Chronic neck pain lasts longer than three months. It can cause severe localized pain in the area of the neck and shoulders or include pain that radiates along nerves causing shooting pains in your arms, hands, or jaw. Over a long period of time, neck pain can cause headaches and limited mobility, resulting in a cyclic effect that causes the condition to worsen.
What Causes Chronic Neck Pain?
Neck pain can be caused by trauma, illness, poor posture, or other sources. Some of the most common causes of chronic neck pain include arthritis, disc degeneration, narrowing of the spinal canal, muscle inflammation, strain, or trauma. Poor posture, lack of activity, and the degeneration of the joints along the cervical spine can also contribute to injuries that cause chronic neck pain.
Like other parts of the spine, your neck is made up of a complex network of vertebrae, nerves, and discs that enable full mobility. All of these working parts mean there are many different causes of injury. Whether you know the origination of your chronic neck pain or it suddenly began out of nowhere, it’s important to learn the source of the problem before attempting treatment.
Common Conservative Treatments for Neck Pain
While chronic neck pain can have a significant impact on your daily activities and result in lifestyle changes, the cause is not always severe, and treatment is typically non-invasive. These are the most common treatments for neck pain.
Ice and Heat Therapy
Neck pain derived from an injury can strain the tendons or muscles in your neck. The swelling and pain caused by a sprain or other injury can be reduced with alternating treatments of cold and heat. This treatment is usually applied at the early onset of neck pain and provides relief while the injury heals.
While your neck may feel delicate, it’s actually a very strong part of your spine designed for mobility to protect your head and spinal nerves. Poor posture or wear and tear on your spine due to natural aging can result in chronic neck pain. Under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist or doctor, exercise programs can be developed to improve range of motion, increase muscle strength, and improve posture. As a result, neck pain decreases and stronger muscles and improved posture help prevent re-injury.
Chronic neck pain can be difficult to diagnose. However, when doctors know the location of the pain, they can provide treatment to the affected area in the form of a nerve block. A nerve block is an anesthetic delivered by an injection during an outpatient procedure. The medication stops the brain from receiving pain messages. While it doesn’t actually repair an injury, it can temporarily eliminate the pain and allow you to increase mobility while you heal.
What Can You Expect from Treatment?
Various treatments for chronic neck pain deliver different results. However, even acute neck pain typically responds quickly to treatment. If you’re suffering from acute pain, your doctor may prescribe medications to reduce inflammation and control pain. For many individuals, a nerve block provides almost immediate results. Your doctor may also recommend combining treatments, like physical therapy along with medication or following a successful nerve block.
Most people are relieved to know that surgery isn’t one of the most common treatments for neck pain. It could be more effective. If you suffer from chronic neck pain and are seeking pain management, contact Integrative Spine and Sports to learn more about pain treatments. Getting started is easy! Just fill out the form below.