Miraculous Mobility: The Cervical Spine
Is your daily activity getting to be a pain in the neck, literally? Well, you can count yourself in good company. The cervical spine offers both mobility and stability in a complex manner that is essential for proper form and physical function. But all this excess mobility can sometimes leave the neck vulnerable to injury and overuse.
Not only does it support the weight of your head (15 lbs on average), your cervical spine is also responsible for your ability to change lanes safely (rotation), Hold the phone while typing (tilt), marvel at the beauty of a blue sky (extension) and gaze at your children lovingly standing so many feet below you (flexion).
Amidst all the joints, muscles and ligaments that stabilize the structure and enable the type of movement discussed above, there are nerve roots that spread like tree branches into the vertebrae. Neck pain can often result from injury, overuse, disease or anything resulting in excess inflammation that can compromise the area or even pinch one or more of the associated nerves.
This can result in any of the following symptoms:
- Dull aching
- Sharp shooting pain
- Pulsating sensations
- Shoulder pain
- Facial pain
- Limited range of motion
Treatment modalities often revolve around minimizing pain and improving range of motion, with fewer than 5% of patients actually requiring surgery.
These can include:
- Oral medications (NSAIDs or muscle relaxants)
- Physical Therapy
- Cervical Epidural Steroid Injection
- Trigger Point Injections
- Facet Joint Injections
- Endoscopic Facet Fusion
- Occipital Nerve Block
- Medial Branch Block
- Spinal Cord Stimulator
- Rhizotomy (RF Therapy)
- Cervical Discectomy
The treatment recommended will depend on a comprehensive diagnosis of the symptomology, cause and severity of the pain. When injury is suspected, or further testing is required for diagnosis, various instruments may be used to assess the issue, including X-ray evaluation, CT scan, bone scan, MRI Scan, nerve conduction velocity tests (NCV), myelogram and electromyography (EMG) testing.