Neck Pain Treatment

Neck pain is a common problem in our society. It is researched to be more prevalent in higher-income countries and in urban areas within those countries. Part of this may have to do with neck pain and the connection to office work that is more prevalent in a higher-income urban setting. The one-year prevalence of neck pain is anywhere between 10% and 21% in the general population. Most often neck pain is a temporary problem, but it is likely to return.

When experiencing neck pain and looking for a proper solution, it is important to understand the source of the pain and the available treatment options. A first line approach includes over-the-counter pain relievers such as Advil or Tylenol. If the pain persists or the neck pain is accompanied by numbness/tingling or radiating symptoms down the arms, it is likely that the patient will seek advice from a medical professional. Depending on the intensity of pain or association with numbness/tingling or headaches/migraines, it is likely that most providers will order an X-ray or MRI. An X-ray is utilized to examine the bones in the neck while an MRI shows a more comprehensive picture of the surrounding muscles, tendons and the cervical discs. There are several things that a provider will look for, but most commonly they are seeking to rule out any instabilities, wear and tear, poor alignment or inflammation/herniation of the cervical discs. Most likely the patient will then receive a diagnosis and either prescribed a pain medication or referred to a surgeon.

Have you or someone you know been diagnosed with a herniated disc, degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, bulging disc or arthritis in the neck? The above diagnostic approach will likely lead to these types of diagnoses. Receiving any combination of the above diagnoses can be detrimental if provided in the wrong context. The wrong context, meaning it is often assumed that these changes are abnormal and the source of that persons pain.

The truth is that most often, neck pain and the associated symptoms are really a movement problem. It is difficult to properly diagnose a movement problem based off a still image. Even further, we know that it is common in both healthy or symptomatic people to find changes in the spine when an X-ray or MRI is taken. In 2016 they examined 100 MRI results from the athletes at the Olympic games in RIO and concluded that:

“A high number of the world’s premier athletes demonstrated moderate to severe spine disease on MRI during the 2016 Summer Olympics, including moderate/severe degenerative disc changes with varying degrees of disc bulges and herniations.”

This means that these athletes performed at the highest levels with these same diagnoses! You should feel confident that world class Olympic athletes have the same herniated disc finding as you, but are training and performing at the highest level. The difference, and most likely the reason you have pain and they don’t, is that these athletes function and move better. This tells us that to make a proper diagnosis, we must evaluate how your body is moving and restore proper movement. Don’t feel that you need to train like an Olympian, most often the body needs subtle improvements or changes in daily routines to relieve the neck pain.

In my own clinical practice, within a month or two, patients can find complete relief of neck pain, numbness and tingling and even the burning sensations that run down the arm. These are the same patients that either had or would have received an X-ray/MRI and likely had been sent to a surgeon to discuss various surgical options.

It is important to properly assess movement and have movement restored before proceeding further with prescription drugs or surgical approaches. If you have neck pain, numbness or tingling into the arms or hands and have received a diagnosis of herniated disc, stenosis, or degenerative disc disease, I would encourage you to schedule a visit at today so that you can receive a proper movement diagnosis and get on the path to being pain free without medication or costly/invasive surgical solution.

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