FAQs on Neck Pain Treatment in Houston TX

What causes neck pain?

Neck pain may originate from the soft tissues around the discs, spine, and joints between the vertebrae. The pain may be caused by the compression of spinal cord, trauma, autoimmune disorders, degenerative changes, or infection.

Herniated disc, muscle strains, whiplash, degenerative arthritis, degenerative disc disease, and Cervical Spinal Stenosis are the most common causes of neck pain. Rarely, tumor or infection is the cause of neck pain in some people.

Muscular Strain/ Cervical Myofascial Pain – Cervical myofascial pain is associated with stiffness in the shoulder or upper back. It originates primarily from irritating daily activities, such as poor sleeping or seating posture that results in muscle spasms. Sporting injury or physical exertion while running, twisting of the head or neck, and climbing may result in muscle fatigue and overuse, causing muscle strain. Some muscular strains arise in work-related settings.

Degenerative Arthritis – Aging is often the main cause of degenerative arthritis in tens of millions of Americans. Arthritis can occur from disk degeneration and loss of water content with age. As we get older, the spine begins to weaken and dry out, causing loss of disk space or height. Neck arthritis could also result from neck trauma suffered at a younger age from a serious fall or accident. Spine cancer or tumor can also cause cervical fracture. People with osteoporosis are more vulnerable at a risk of cervical fractures.

Degenerative Disc Disease – With age, the natural shock absorbers or seven discs that offer cushion to the spine become worn and begin to degenerate. The degenerated disc gradually becomes weak and less flexible, resulting in neck pain and stiffness. Research reveals that about 25% of people under-40 years of age have some degree of cervical degenerative disc disease without symptoms.

Surgery as a treatment for this condition does not have a great track record. Contrarily, non-invasive treatment works well. Alternatively, conservative treatments offer much relief from pain in individuals with degenerative disease.

Herniated Disc – If a disc breaks open and squeezes out, putting pressure on the nerve roots and spinal cord, it could result in a pinched nerve, with pain traveling down the affected arm along the nerve’s sensation. The tear in the intervertebral disc could cause considerable neck pain.

Cervical Spinal Stenosis – A condition that occurs after degenerative neck arthritis, cervical spinal stenosis is the compression of the spinal cord as a result of thickening of ligaments, overgrowth of neck soft tissues and tumor or infection. This overgrowth tends to pinch and put pressure on nerve roots, thus resulting in tightening of the spinal canal. This also results in compromised coordination of extremities. As a result, a person suffers neck and arm pain due to arthritis and compressed nerve root(s).

Whiplash – A blow or impact that causes unrestrained forward or backward movement of your head and neck could stretch and tear your neck muscles and tendons, resulting in excruciating pain due to damage to facet joints or neck ligaments. Whiplash is a term used to describe an injury that involves damage to bones and soft tissues, often resulting in a prolonged period of partial disability. These injuries are often reported in people involved in auto accidents.

Tumor/Infection – A spinal tumor or infection could cause severe neck pain that doesn’t diminish even with prolonged rest periods. Tumors originating in the spine are rare; these are benign and slow growing and primarily reported in younger adults. Affected individuals may experience chills, fevers, night sweats, and pain even at rest.

How do you diagnose neck pain?

Complete medical history and physical examination are necessary for a neck pain diagnosis. During the physical exam, the doctor will measure your range of motion, reflexes, strength, sensation, and nerve and muscle function in your neck and extremities.

Since there are several different causes of neck pain, the doctor will try to determine the exact reason for your symptoms before preparing a treatment plan. After the physician has an idea as to what is the root cause of your discomfort, they may recommend a few diagnostic tests, including X-ray, MRI, CAT, bone scan, myelogram, electrodiagnostic study, or somatosensory evoked potential.

  • X-rays – capture pictures of bones in the neck
  • Computed tomography – a form of X-ray that gives a closer view of neck bones
  • Electromyography – a test performed with electromyograph to examine the electrical activity in and around your neck
  • Magnetic resonance imaging – a medical imaging technique used to see a clear picture of the spine and nerves
  • Lumbar puncture – a technique that uses a needle to inject a fluid into your spinal canal; the procedure is also called a spinal tap

Laboratory tests may be required for a thorough spinal and postural examination and muscle testing to discover the physical cause of your discomfort.

What are the symptoms?

If a nerve is getting pinched, it may cause:

  • Acute neck pain that frequently spreads to the shoulder blade areas, upper back, and arms, especially
  • Pain that causes neck stiffness, numbness, tingling in arms, legs, and fingers
  • Pain that gets worse with movement

What are the treatment options?

Over-the-counter drugs: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants, anti-convulsants, anti-depressants, steroid medications, and narcotic pain relievers are used to treat neck pain. Opioid medications are often prescribed to patients with acute neck pain.

Epidural Steroid Injections – The procedure involves directly injecting corticosteroid into epidural space using X-ray to treat radicular pain symptoms. The steroid works on the nerve roots to reduce inflammation and irritation.

Lysis of Adhesions – The Racz procedure involves dissolving scar tissue in the epidural space to treat disc disease, radiculopathy, or spinal stenosis.

Medial Branch Blocks – The procedure involves injections around the facet joints to block the nerves that innervate facet joints and treat neck pain originating from them.

Facet Injection – Pain doctors may inject numbing medicine and steroid into the painful joint. This may provide relief for weeks to months at a time.

Radiofrequency Ablation – The procedure targets medial branch nerves using electrical energy to “burn” the nerves that stimulate the joints, blocking the ability of facet joints to transmit painful signals to the brain.

Trigger Point Injections – The procedure involves injecting numbing medicine plus/minus steroid into a trigger point to treat muscle spasms.

Spinal Cord Stimulation – The minimally invasive procedure involves placement of a device into the epidural space under X-ray guidance that sends low currents of electrical stimulation.

Botox Injections – The procedure involves injecting a dose of botulinum into spastic muscles for patients experiencing neck pain from whiplash injuries.

What other treatments are available?

  • Physical therapy and rehabilitation includes ice/heat packs, stretching, electrical stimulation, ultrasound, strengthening, and massage.
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is another therapy that uses low – voltage electrical current to stimulate nerves for therapeutic pain relief.
  • Chiropractic care helps decompress pinched nerves and significantly reduce neck pain, when used in combination with cervical spinal decompression therapy.
  • Acupuncture involves inserting small needles into the neck area. This releases hormones that are the body’s natural pain reliever, and help relieve pain symptoms.