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The neck is a complex part of the human anatomy. Also referred to as the cervical spine, the neck is more susceptible to injury than the thoracic spine (upper and middle back) and lumbar spine (lower back) as it has less built-in protection than the other parts of the spine. It is also the most flexible section of the spine, and its job is to support and help move the head. The neck is comprised of vertebrae, spinal cord, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and nerves. Neck pain can be related to one or more of these elements that make up the neck.
Have you ever had a pain in the neck? It may sometimes be used as a cliché, but when you actually experience neck pain it is no joking matter. The intensity of pain can range from mild to severe and may be accompanied by difficulty turning or moving your neck. The area may be tender when touched. Other areas of the body can also be affected when your neck hurts, such as tingling or numbness in the arm or hand. You might have a headache, jaw pain, dizziness, imbalance, or ringing in the ears.
The most common cause of neck pain is damage to the soft tissues, such as muscles, ligaments or nerves. This can result from trauma or an injury, or even just sleeping in an incorrect position. The aging process also causes wear and tear on the soft tissues that can lead to neck pain. Other causes of neck pain include poor posture, disease, infection, deformities, trauma, tumors, spondylosis or cervical spinal stenosis.
If your neck pain lasts only a couple of days and you suspect it is from something simple like sleeping wrong, you should be fine without medical intervention. Ongoing or severe pain requires a proper diagnosis from a qualified professional like Dr. Fischer at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. A physical and neurological examination will be performed, as well as a detailed medical history. An X-ray or CT scan may also be helpful in confirming the diagnosis.
Conservative treatment is the preferred way to deal with neck pain. This may involve pain medication, anti-inflammatory medication, muscle relaxants, activity modification, physical therapy, or spinal injections. Some patients are advised to wear a neck collar to limit movement and therefore reduce pain. Sometimes alternative methods like chiropractic care are recommended.
Surgery is typically only recommended if non-surgical methods do not improve symptoms, and if neurological problems or neck instability were part of the diagnosis. It is uncommon for neck pain in most patients to result in surgery. Consulting NYC Spine Surgeon Dr. Fischer for a full evaluation and treatment plan is a great way to get you on the path to recovery from neck pain.