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Pain Relief Articles - Neck Pain

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Neck Pain Management

There's no such thing as a typical pain in the neck. Neck pain can be caused by injuries like whiplash as well as everyday strains like hunching over a computer monitor. Or neck pain can be a warning of a more serious problem.

As we age, neck pain is inevitable and a natural phenomenon. Years of swiveling your vertebrae (neck bones) and the cartilage that cushions it (discs) creates wear and tear on their flexibility.

Neck Pain Isn't All The Same

Neck pain is generally diagnosed as acute or chronic. Acute neck pain is temporary and strikes immediately, usually because of a sudden muscle strain. Chronic neck pain is persistent and can linger indefinitely.

Some neck conditions overlap both classifications of pain. In some cases, whiplash may be acute at the time of injury but may progress into a chronic problem.

Neck Pain Type #1: Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis triggers a breakdown in cartilage, making discs thin and inelastic. It's accompanied by the development of bony outgrowths called spurs which make the neck stiff and painful to move.

Neck Pain Type #2: Pinched Nerves

Another age related source of neck pain are pinched nerves. Overtime, discs become dry, constricting the space in the spinal column where nerves come out. This results in these nerves becoming impinged and producing neck pain. Nerves can also become pinched when discs herniate due to muscle strain.

Neck Pain Type #3: Whiplash and Other Injuries

Neck injuries are a serious source of neck pain which may involve spinal cord damage. Besides whiplash caused by rear end collisions, diving into shallow pools and contact sports are frequent sources of neck injuries.

All neck injuries require immediate medical attention. Fortunately, most neck injury pain, including whiplash, is located in muscles and ligaments and usually disappears in a few months.

Neck Pain Treatments

With an early diagnosis, treatments can be started that not only provide pain relief and management, but help slow the progression of neck problems. The most frequently used neck treatments are surgery, medicine and alternative therapies.

Neck Pain Surgery

If medicine and physical therapy fail to bring relief, surgery is often thought as a last resort for neck pain management. However, there are limits to what surgery can accomplish. It can't undo damage from wear and aging. And it also carries risks.

One of the most common types of neck pain surgeries is an anterior cervical discectomy. This procedure relieves nerve pressure on the spinal cord by enlarging the nerve opening, removing the disc and any bone spurs irritating the spinal nerve roots. The space between vertebrae left after disc removal is filled with bone and reinforced with a metal plate through a procedure called "fusion". This operation carries with it the risk of stroke and paralysis.

Cervical Corpectomy, is a more complicated version of an anterior cervical discectomy in that it also involves removing vertebrae as well as discs. It's also carries the additional risk of spinal cord damage and total paralysis.

A much less invasive type of neck pain operation is an epidural, which is a specific type of nerve block. This is performed by injecting medication into and around the epidural space on the spinal canal where nerves are located. While this procedure provide relief from small disc herniations and mild spinal stenosis, it's only temporary.

When this procedure involves corticosteroids, there's the danger of serious health risks and potentially life threatening side effects. This neck pain therapy should only be administered once or twice a year due to the risk of permanent cartilage damage.

Neck Pain Management and Relief Medications

Pharmaceutical treatments for neck pain range from over-the-counter medicines like aspirin to prescription drugs. Pain relievers like acetaminophen may be helpful to osteo neck pain sufferers since their condition involves little inflammation.

For people with rheumatoid neck pain, NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), which include ibuprofen, aspirin and newer drugs like are helpful. NSAIDs with COX-2 specific inhibitors that block an enzyme known to cause an inflammatory response are often prescribed by medical doctors for neck pain management and relief. However these drugs carry with them the risk of side effects like heart disease, digestive disorders, ulcers and liver damage.

Rheumatoid neck pain sufferers who don't respond to NSAIDs are often given DMARDs, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs. These drugs are believed to correct immune system deficiencies contributing to rheumatoid neck. They include Arava and methotrexate, hydroxychloroquine, penicillamine, and gold injections, all of which may cause side effects if not monitored closely.

Another, newer class of drugs known as biological response modifiers, reduce rheumatoid neck pain by blocking an immune system protein involved in an inflammatory immune system response.

Another disadvantage of using medications for neck pain relief and management is the risk of addiction over an extended period. Medications can't cure degenerative neck pain, they're prescribed for the management of its inflammation and pain.

Natural Pain Management and
Alternative Medicine Doctors

Fortunately, alternative medicine professionals offer neck pain sufferers the option of natural pain management and relief therapies without the risks of surgical and pharmaceutical approaches. Their methods of treating neck pain ranging from whiplash to osteoarthritis are more conservative than the medical establishment's and often just as effective if not more so.


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