Various conditions and problems can cause neck pain. Sometimes, neck pain is simply the result of a muscle strain from overuse, hunching over, or sleeping incorrectly. In other cases, conditions in the upper portion of the spine, called the cervical spine, can result in neck pain. In many cases, neck pain can be treated with nonsurgical treatment methods. However, if symptoms persist after several weeks of nonsurgical treatment, surgery may be an option.
At Austin Spine, we treat a full range of conditions in the cervical spine. The conditions below are some of the most common causes of neck pain.
Degenerative disc disease
It is common for the discs in our spines to wear out over time; it is a normal part of the aging process. However, for some people the discs in the cervical spine can degenerate to the point that the neck becomes stiff and painful. This is known as degenerative disc disease. In some cases, this degeneration can compress or irritate spinal nerves, leading to numbness, tingling, and weakness in the neck, arms, or shoulders.
Nonsurgical treatment is usually recommended before surgery is considered. Nonsurgical treatment may include ice and/or heat application, over the counter anti-inflammatory medications, and physical therapy. Prescription steroids, muscle relaxants, and pain medications may also be used.
If nonsurgical treatment does not relieve symptoms, surgery may be recommended. An anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) is one of the most common surgical procedures performed on patients with degenerative disc disease in the cervical spine, but cervical disc replacement may be an option for some patients.
The spinal discs are made up of a tough exterior with a soft-jelly-like center. With wear and tear on the spine over time, a disc’s exterior can rupture, allowing some of the disc’s core material to push through the disc. The disc material can irritate the nerves nearby, leading to pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness in the neck, shoulders, and arms.
In many cases, nonsurgical treatment is effective in relieving symptoms. Nonsurgical treatment for a herniated disc may include over the counter pain medications, muscle relaxers, cortisone injections, physical therapy, and hot and cold therapy. In some cases, a neck brace may be recommended for a short period of time.
If a herniated disc causes severe numbness and weakness, and nonsurgical treatments are ineffective, surgery may be recommended. In some cases, only a portion of the disc may need to be removed. However, in other cases, the entire disc may need to be removed surgically, and the vertebrae may need to be fused together.
Cervical stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal in the neck due to bone spurs and other degenerative changes. This narrowing can compress the spinal cord or the spinal nerves, resulting in pain, numbness, or tingling in the neck, arms, and hands. In some cases, if the spinal cord is compressed, symptoms may also affect the legs.
In mild cases of cervical stenosis, nonsurgical treatment may be effective in relieving symptoms. Nonsurgical treatment may include medications to help with pain, exercises, traction and physical therapy.
If symptoms are severe or progressive, or the spinal cord is compressed as a result of the condition, surgery will likely be needed to correct the problem. During the surgical procedure, your surgeon will remove any disc, bone, or tissue that is compressing the nerves and spinal cord. In many cases, the vertebrae in the affected area are fused together to decompress as well as improve stability in the spine. In certain cases, non-fusion techniques such as a laminoplasty or disc replacement can be utilized to preserve motion.
Neck pain treatment for patients in the Austin area and across Texas
At Austin Spine, our top-rated physicians offer a full range of surgical and nonsurgical treatment options for neck pain. If neck pain interferes with your everyday life or occurs alongside symptoms like tingling, numbness, or weakness, a proper diagnosis can help you get the treatment you need to alleviate those symptoms. If you would like to learn more about our treatment options for neck pain, or would like to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists, please contact our office at (512) 347-7463.