Neck Injury from Car Accident in Colorado Springs
Colorado Springs Personal Injury Law Firm
We don’t appreciate a pain-free neck until it’s gone, just as we don’t appreciate the carefree days of our childhood. Neck discomfort may be debilitating, affecting your social life, family time, hobbies, and even job productivity.
You’re probably acquainted with neck aches if you’re reading this. This handy guide will help you understand the structure of your cervical spine, various causes and forms of neck pain, and typical treatments for neck pain, whether you’ve just woken up with a whopper of a crick in your neck, had an accident, or have been struggling with chronic neck pain.
What is Neck Pain and What Causes It?
Overachievers with neck problems are the worst. It’s so widespread that, behind ischemic heart disease, cerebrovascular illness, and lower respiratory infection, it’s the fourth greatest cause of disability worldwide. Every year, over 30% of people are affected.
It isn’t always centered in the neck, though. It may impact your whole upper body, including your shoulders, arms, and chest, and cause headaches. Neck discomfort may be debilitating, making it difficult to concentrate and get through the day.
Neck discomfort may be severe, interfering with daily activities such as sleeping, feeling productive, and spending time with friends and family. It has an impact on more than just your physical health. In studies, chronic pain has been found to influence a person’s mental health; up to 85% of individuals with chronic pain suffer from severe depression.
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What Should I Understand About Neck Anatomy?
To enhance your neck’s function and lessen discomfort, you don’t need to remember its physiology and anatomy, but having a broad awareness of your cervical spine is beneficial.
The flexibility of the neck is unrivaled. Although it won’t make your head spin as in The Exorcist, it can move it in a variety of directions:
- 90 degrees of flexion (forward motion).
- 90 degrees of extension (backward motion).
- 180 degrees of rotation (side to side).
- Almost 120 degrees of tilt to each shoulder.
However, all of this mobility comes at a cost: complexity. Your seven vertebrae (C1 through C7) are joined by facet joints and are cushioned by an intervertebral disc. There are additionally 32 muscles that assist in moving and support the neck and tendons that connect them to bones.
There are also a number of ligaments that connect bones. That’s a lot of activity packed into a little space.
What Are the Most Common Causes of Neck Pain?
“Neck discomfort is somewhat more frequent in women and individuals with a family history of neck pain,” says James Anderson, MD, an interventional pain specialist and physiatrist in Colorado Springs. “Smokers, individuals with psychiatric illnesses including depression and anxiety, and those who lead a sedentary lifestyle are all at higher risk.”
People over the age of 50 are more likely to have neck discomfort. But, apart from plain old aging, the reasons for neck discomfort are as many as they are lengthy. Here’s a rundown of some of the most prevalent causes of neck pain:
Injuries and Accidents
Whiplash occurs when the head is pushed to move backward and/or forward beyond its usual range of motion. The muscles and ligaments in the neck tighten and constrict due to the abnormal and fast movement. Muscle exhaustion occurs as a consequence, resulting in discomfort and stiffness. Whiplash is usually caused by an automobile collision, although it may also be caused by other traumas like a fall or a sports injury.
According to Dr. Anderson, “when a [cervical] nerve is compressed, it may induce [radiating]pain that goes up into the head, behind the eyes, down the jaw, and down the arms.” Nerve compression and spinal stenosis (crowding of the spinal canal) are most often caused by herniated discs. However, bone spurs may also induce nerve compression.
Osteoarthritis, also known as spondylosis when it affects the facet joints in the spine, is the most prevalent type of arthritis. Wear and strain and age may generate osteophytes (bone spurs), which can clog the spinal canal and pressure nerve roots in the neck.
Arthritis in Other Forms
The cervical spine may be affected by many kinds of arthritis, notably inflammatory forms such rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, and juvenile idiopathic arthritis. The joints that enable mobility in the neck are damaged by chronic inflammation in the neck.
Additional Disease Processes
Although strain is the most frequent cause of neck discomfort, persistent pain and/or neurologic deficits might indicate something more severe. These signs should not be overlooked. Infections of the spine, spinal cord compression, tumors, fractures, and other problems may develop. If you’ve had a head injury, your neck is almost certainly impacted as well. Seek medical help as soon as possible.
Additional weight: Extra pounds place unnecessary strain on the spine, and weak abdominal muscles might fail to support it, causing the spine to lose its equilibrium and the neck to bow forward to compensate.
If you’re stressed—and who isn’t?—you could unconsciously tighten the muscles that move your neck, resulting in a stiff, aching neck.
Neck discomfort may be caused by prolonged poor posture—looking at you, excessive smartphone use. “Clenched teeth, inappropriate lifting, lengthy periods of sitting at the computer, and reading in bed may all cause neck discomfort,” explains Tammy Penhollow, DO, an anesthesiologist and pain expert in Scottsdale, Colorado.
What are the many kinds of neck pain?
There are several types of neck discomfort. Some individuals only have one kind, while others have a mix of the two.
Neuropathic neck pain is discomfort that arises from the nerves or nerve roots in the cervical spine. It may be caused by a herniated disc that pushes on a neighboring nerve or other sources of nerve compression.
Mechanical neck discomfort is caused by the spine and the structures that support it (e.g., muscles, ligaments, bones, or cartilage). Poor posture, neck strain from job or sports/physical activity, and even worry are common causes of mechanical discomfort.
A stroke, spinal cord damage, or multiple sclerosis are the most prevalent causes of central neuropathic pain. It might also be the consequence of central nervous system damage, such as a severe brain/spinal cord injury or infection (e.g., abscess, encephalitis, myelitis)
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Neck Pain?
Other symptoms that accompany neck pain may be seen in addition to the pain itself. The following are some of the most prevalent neck discomfort symptoms:
Tight muscles at the back of the head or a “muscle knot” in the neck are symptoms of muscular neck stiffness. It’s possible that this will expand to your shoulders, upper back, and arms.
Headache: Headaches in the occipital area (back of the skull) are prevalent, but they may also spread to the top of the head, resulting in “tension” headaches caused by muscular tightness.
Shooting pain and/or weakness down the arm might be due to muscular exhaustion or nerve compression. Quite frequently, along with certain nerve roots (i.e., vertebrae C6, which extends to the thumb and index finger, and vertebrae C5, which extends to the deltoids and bicep).
Neck mobility loss: unable to readily swivel your head and neck.
Paraesthesias: A numbing and/or tingling feeling in the arms produced by nerve compression at the spine level or when branching nerves travel through tight, irritated muscles.
If nerve compression is the source of your neck discomfort, you may notice the following signs and symptoms:
shoulder, arm, or hand aches and pains
Numbness or “pins and needles” sensation in arm, fingers, or hand
Sharp, scorching pain radiating outward from the pinched nerve
According to Peter G. Cooper, MD, several illnesses might mirror similar symptoms, such as coronary artery disease (angina) or even lung malignancies. “When the symptoms listed are present, it is preferable to have a qualified physician undertake a complete physical examination,” he adds.
How can you get a diagnosis for neck pain?
A primary care practitioner is the most likely to identify neck discomfort. Dr. Bonte notes, “The essential component of therapy is to attempt to determine the underlying reason of the pain since this will lead the treatment.”
“For example, if the reason is due to a muscular imbalance or poor ergonomics (for example, when working from home at a makeshift desk! ), it’s critical to address these underlying problems as part of the overall treatment strategy.”
Your healthcare professional will:
Inquire about your medical history to evaluate your neck discomfort.
To figure out what’s causing your discomfort, ask questions like: o When did it start? o What activities occurred before the onset of the pain?
o, Have you tried anything to help your neck pain?
Does the pain radiate or spread to other places of your body? o What causes the pain to be less or more intense?
Have a physical exam to see whether your pain comescomes from a muscle, joint, or ligament. This test will cover the following topics:
Pay attention to your posture
Feeling the curvature of your spine, vertebral alignment, and muscular spasms by palpating/feeling them.
A check of your neck mobility, as well as the strength and feeling in your neck and arms
Diagnostic testing: this is done to rule out specific conditions (e.g., infection, fracture, or tumor).
A neurological examination that assesses your reflexes, muscular strength, sensory and/or motor problems, and pain distribution may be part of your doctor’s visit to assist them in reaching the right diagnosis.
If you feel numbness or tingling in your shoulder, arms, or neck, or if you have localized weakness that signals nerve injury, you should have this evaluation. A nerve conduction study (also known as electromyography/EMG) may be ordered by your doctor to determine how rapidly your nerves transmit and receive messages to and from your brain. Nerve injury might be indicated by slower speeds in the nerve conduction examination.
Neck discomfort may be diagnosed with imaging scans, which can assist your doctor in narrowing down the source of the problem. An X-ray may indicate a narrowed disc space, a fracture, the production of osteophytes, and Osteoarthritis. Soft tissue such as muscles, ligaments, and intervertebral discs are not visible on an X-ray; instead, you’ll require an MRI or CT scan.
What Are the Most Common Nonsurgical Neck Pain Treatments?
If you’ve been suffering from persistent pain for more than two weeks, you should visit a doctor for an examination and therapy. Treatments for neck pain differ based on the origin and length of the discomfort. Many neck pain sufferers get relief from one or more of these treatments. The following are the most prevalent treatments:
Neck discomfort, inflammation, muscular spasms, and sleep disturbances may all be managed with over-the-counter and prescription drugs. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including ibuprofen and naproxen and acetaminophen, are usually the first line of therapy for neck discomfort (Tylenol). Some NSAIDs, such as Voltaren Gel and Aspercreme, may be administered externally to the skin; additional topical therapies include Icy-Hot, lidocaine-based patches, and CBD creams/ointments.
“Sometimes prescription drugs like muscle relaxers and nerve pain meds are recommended,” adds Dr. Bonte. Acute pain is treated with muscle relaxants more often than chronic pain.
If you’re using meds to relieve neck pain, be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions and report any negative effects. Some pain relievers, such as opioids, are very addictive and should only be taken as directed. If you have degenerative neck pain, no treatment will be able to ‘fix the pain, but it will help you manage it. For additional information, check our page on drugs for neck pain relief.
Neck discomfort may occasionally be relieved with interventions such as injections of pain-relieving medication into the afflicted joints or nerves. “Injections such as trigger point injections, epidural steroid injections, and radiofrequency ablations may be done depending on the source of neck discomfort,” explains Dr. Bonte. Botox injections or dry needling into tight bands of muscle are occasionally used to relieve pain, while research on their efficacy is conflicting.
Injections containing a steroid and a pain reliever may help people with neuropathic neck discomfort, particularly with physical therapy. Nerve ablation (burning) at the neck joints may increase mobility while also reducing discomfort.
Regenerative therapies such as platelet-rich plasma (PRP) and/or stem cells from bone marrow aspirate concentrate (BMAC) may be helpful for people who do not want (or should not undergo) corticosteroids or ablation operations to the neck but still want pain alleviation.
“For the first time, we have a medication that reverses the process rather than masking it and is therefore beneficial.” Dr. Penhollow adds, “All of the other standard injections, ablations, and operations are damaging.” most insurance companies will not cover these therapies since they are usually believed to need additional investigation before they can be declared standard.
Cervical collar and/or cervical pillow: If you’ve had a neck injury, a cervical collar may help you recuperate by providing support and limiting mobility. It also aids in the appropriate alignment of your cervical spine. Cervical pillows are designed to provide your neck with the proper amount of curvature as you sleep. They relieve pressure on the nerves in your neck, allowing you to sleep better – which is very important when you’re in pain!
Complementary and alternative therapies
Alternative remedies for neck discomfort may be beneficial.
Acupuncture: Acupuncture practitioners aim to reestablish a healthy flow of your body’s energy force, known as “qi.” Some individuals feel better after only one acupuncture treatment, while others need many sessions to get well.
Herbal therapies: When applied to the skin, topical herbal medicines such as capsaicin lotion may temporarily relieve pain. To relieve inflammation and discomfort, devil’s claw and/or white willow bark are widely utilized.
Massage: Whether your neck discomfort is caused by stress, injury, or abuse, a massage may assist in relieving muscular tension and pain while also reducing inflammation. Massages regularly may also help to avoid neck discomfort.
Yoga and pilates: These activities may help you avoid and/or relieve neck discomfort by increasing core strength, improving balance and posture, and reducing stress. Yoga and pilates might be especially beneficial if your discomfort is caused by tight muscles or a weak core.
Chiropractic neck adjustments, also known as cervical manipulation, may be used by a chiropractor to relieve neck discomfort. These adjustments assist in releasing the joints of the cervical vertebrae in the neck, which may help relieve discomfort from muscular spasms and pinched nerves. To relieve inflammation, enhance function, and alleviate neck discomfort, your chiropractor may use a variety of treatments to minimize joint limitations or misalignments.
Most neck pain physical therapy treatments include an exercise regimen that strengthens and stretches the neck to relieve pain and stiffness. According to research, Neck discomfort is generally treated more effectively with physical therapy than with surgery or pain medication. To assist you in returning to your usual activities and lifestyle, your physical therapist will work with you on exercises and treatments that you may perform at home.
Will Neck Pain Require Surgery?
Cervical spine surgery is seldom required to alleviate neck discomfort since most patients react effectively to non-surgical therapy. In reality, only around 5% of neck discomfort sufferers need surgery.
“Unless it’s an acute disc herniation compression on the spinal cord where it’s a neurosurgical emergency, such as when someone experiences loss of bowel or bladder control or extreme weakness in the limbs where decompression of the cord is imperative,” explains Dr. Penhollow, “surgery is typically a last resort.”
If non-surgical therapy isn’t working, you may require cervical spine surgery. That is, you’ve tried a variety of treatments, including medication, chiropractic care, physical therapy, massage, and exercises, yet you’re still in pain.
Cervical radiculopathy, or pinched nerve in the neck, may cause discomfort, numbness, and paralysis in your shoulders and arms.
Your discomfort is becoming worse. If your discomfort is becoming worse, surgery might relieve the strain on your nerves (often caused by a herniated disc).
Your spinal cord is squeezed against something. The spinal cord may be irritated by certain neck disorders. You could feel pain or stiffness, have balance issues, or have trouble with fine motor skills.
Your neurological symptoms are becoming worse. If you have numbness, tingling, or weakness in your arms or legs and difficulty with balance or walking.
Degenerative disc disease, trauma, or spinal instability are the most common reasons for surgery. These problems may put pressure on your spinal cord or nerves coming from your spine, and the only way to relieve it is to have surgery.
What Surgery Is Used To Treat Neck Pain?
There are two kinds of cervical spine procedures that are often used to treat neck pain:
Decompression is the process of eliminating tissue that is pushing on a nerve structure.
Stabilization: restricting movement between the vertebrae. The surgeon uses plates, screws, bones, and other materials to prevent mobility between the vertebrae to stabilize the spine during spinal fusion (including cervical spinal fusion).
Decompression methods come in a variety of forms, including:
Discectomy: A discectomy is when a surgeon removes all or part of a damaged disc.
Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF): Known as the “gold standard” in cervical spine surgery, ACDF entails removing a damaged disc to alleviate nerve root or spinal cord pressure. A graft will be inserted by your surgeon to join the bones above and below the disc together.
Replacement of the cervical disc: This technique, also known as complete disc arthroplasty or artificial disc replacement, entails removing the injured cervical disc, as well as any bone spurs, and replacing it with a metal or polymer prosthesis.
Corpectomy: the vertebral body is removed to provide access to whatever is pushing on the spinal cord or nerve.
Transcorporeal Microdecompression (TCMD): the cervical spine is accessed from the front of the neck. To access and decompress the spinal cord and nerve, TCMD is conducted via a tiny channel created in the vertebral body. This preserves the disc while restoring proper spacing in the spinal cord.
Foraminotomy: this procedure involves removing bone spurs that are pushing on a nerve. Your surgeon will consult with you to decide the best course of action for your situation.
Stabilization surgery is occasionally performed concurrently with decompression surgery. However, this is not always the case. The surgeon may need to remove a considerable piece of the vertebra or vertebrae in certain types of decompression surgery. Consequently, your spine becomes unstable, meaning it moves in unusual ways, increasing your risk of major neurological damage. In this situation, the spine will be stabilized by the surgeon. This is usually accomplished by the use of a spinal fusion or the insertion of an artificial disc.
Some patients are at a higher risk of inadequate bone healing or fusion failure. Several risk factors obstruct bone repair and fusion, including smoking and diabetes. For individuals with specific risk factors, a bone growth stimulator may be advised and prescribed.
Neck Pain: Preventing and Coping
While it is not always feasible to prevent neck discomfort, you can maintain your neck muscles free of pressure and stress by developing healthy habits. Take stretch breaks throughout the day instead of sitting in front of a computer all day.
Consider your posture if your neck discomfort becomes worse at the end of the day. Do you have your back straight? Do you have your feet flat on the floor, sitting on your chair?
Check your sleeping posture and pillow if your neck discomfort becomes worse in the morning. Use a cushion that supports and straightens your neck. If at all possible, avoid sleeping on your stomach with your neck twisted.
What if you go to bed feeling well and wake up with agony in your neck? The stresses of daily life (and nightlife, even if it’s simply lying on your pillow!) may strain your neck. Allowing your body to recover on its own is the greatest thing you can do if you wake up with a neck ache. You have a few alternatives for getting through the day without allowing the discomfort to interfere with your typical activities.
Gently stretch your neck: the Spine Universe Exercise Center has a video with three neck stretches and exercises to help you relax.
Take Tylenol or Advil, which are over-the-counter pain relievers.
Alternate heat and cold treatments on your neck: 20 minutes of heat followed by 20 minutes of ice should help ease discomfort and speed up recovery.
Rest: Avoid any rigorous activities that worsen your symptoms, such as sports and heavy lifting, for a few days.
Do you already have neck pain?
While there are numerous choices for treating neck pain, no therapy has been clinically proven to relieve persistent neck pain at this time. Even standard therapies have contradictory findings on their efficacy in reducing pain and improving neck function.
People must sometimes learn to control their pain daily via self-management and lifestyle adjustments.
Here are some methods for reducing chronic neck discomfort and improving your quality of life:
Get some exercise every day: stretch, stroll, and perform gentle activities that don’t aggravate your discomfort.
Take things slowly: don’t feel obligated to ‘do it all.’ Allow for relaxation time throughout the day daily.
Speak up for yourself: learn how to express your feelings to your healthcare professionals, as well as friends and family. Set limitations on what you can and cannot accomplish, and ask for help from others in your life.
Get lots of rest: being well-rested may help you manage discomfort more effectively.
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