Neck Pain

An Overview

Also referred to as cervical pain, neck pain is a common problem categorized as discomfort in the neck area. Symptoms of neck pain include:

  • Difficulty moving the head
  • Headaches
  • Muscle spasms/tightness
  • Pain after keeping the head in one position for too long

Because the neck is flexible and supports the weight of the head, it can be susceptible to injuries or conditions that restrict motion or cause pain. Causes of neck pain include:

  • Degenerative disc disease, the deterioration of the joints and vertebral discs of the neck and spine that can compress or impinge (pinch) the nerves in the neck
  • Injury from a sport or motor vehicle accident causing soft tissue damage
  • Muscle strains may result from issues such as an overuse of the muscles, causing pain in the neck
  • Other diseases such as meningitis, arthritis or cancer can also be a source of neck pain

How Is Neck Pain Diagnosed?

After taking a look at your medical history, Dr. LaRocca will perform a physical exam to check for numbness, tenderness and muscle weakness. The patient may also be asked to move his or her head several different ways to determine the location of the pain.

Diagnostic imaging tests may also be performed and they can include:

  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan to produce cross-sectional views of the structure of the neck
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan to view the soft tissues of the neck including the nerves and spinal cord
  • X-rays to reveal sections of the neck where the spinal cord or nerves may be compressed on impinged by abnormalities in the neck

In some instances, additional tests may be necessary, including:

  • Blood tests to check for infection or other inflammatory conditions that may be causing the neck pain
  • Electromyography (EMG) to measure speed of nerve conduction to see if certain nerves are operating properly

Treatment for Neck Pain

If neck pain persists over two or three weeks, Dr. LaRocca will create a customized treatment plan that may include treatments, such as:

  • Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion
  • Cervical laminoplasty to create more space within the spinal canal
  • Laminectomy to relieve pressure in the spinal cord
  • Medications (e.g., muscle relaxants)
  • Physical therapy to correct posture and strengthen the muscles
  • Soft collar for short-term immobilization of the neck to take pressure off the structures in the neck
  • Steroid injections near the nerve roots in the spinal cord to relieve pain
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) where electrodes are placed on the skin in the painful areas to relieve pain.