Did you know that chronic neck pain is one of the most common afflictions of modern living? Using computers, smartphones, tablets, and gaming systems can contribute to the tightening of neck muscles and inflammation around the vertebrae in the neck.
Additional weight and pressure on your neck can cause severe pain. For example, leaning forward while reading, driving, or looking at your phone puts added strain on your neck for hours each day. Fortunately, there are several non-surgical treatment options that can bring neck pain relief for most patients. At Arkansas Surgical Hospital, our interventional pain management doctors and spine surgeons can help you find non-surgical treatments for neck pain that are effective and non-invasive.
Correcting the Problem
The most important course of action is correcting the cause of your pain. Talk to your doctor about how you can help prevent muscle tension and misalignment of your neck, which can cause the stiffness and muscle spasms that lead to chronic neck pain.
Ways you can help minimize neck pain in the future may include:
- Using ergonomically designed office furniture, including your computer desk and chair
- Making sure you use your phone, tablet, or laptop at eye level
- Using talk rather than text whenever possible
- Taking a break from electronics every half hour to walk around, stretch and roll your neck muscles, hunch your shoulders, and refocus your eyes
- Tilting your head back and rolling it from side to side when reading
- Taking frequent breaks on long drives
- Massaging or applying heat to your neck and shoulders to relax your muscles in the evening
If you continue to experience debilitating chronic neck pain, the specialists at Arkansas Surgical Hospital can determine the best course of therapy to relieve your pain and restore proper range of movement.
Conservative Treatment Options
For mild to moderate neck pain, there are various treatment options—such as massage therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, muscle relaxers, and physical therapy—that can bring relief. These options are usually sufficient if the pain hasn’t become too entrenched, and the muscles should respond well for a few weeks.
Ongoing physical therapy or massage can help keep the muscles from tightening up again so that the tension and pain do not recur. You should also focus on exercise and proper self-care at home to avoid long-term use of muscle relaxers.
Other conservative treatments for neck pain include:
Facet injections provide complete but temporary relief from neck pain. This minimally invasive option relieves pain in the facet joint and reduces inflammation in the area. During the procedure, a fluoroscope guides the surgeon as he or she injects cortisone steroids and anesthetics to the inflamed area of the facet joint. This takes less than twenty minutes and usually provides immediate pain relief.
The results of facet injections usually last for several months, and they can be given every three to six months. The interventional pain management specialists at Arkansas Surgical Hospital can help you determine how frequently you can receive the injections for maximum safety and effectiveness.
Also referred to as radiofrequency ablation, radiofrequency rhizotomy is an option if you suffer from chronic neck pain from whiplash. In this procedure, needles are inserted into your neck near the affected area and radio waves are sent to the inflamed nerves, temporarily rendering them unable to transmit pain signals to the brain.
Results of radiofrequency rhizotomy vary, with pain relief lasting anywhere from several weeks to several months. The success of the procedure depends on being able to correctly target the specific nerves that are causing your neck pain. After the procedure, there may be some temporary pain and numbness in the area. There is a possibility of nerve damage in rare cases, but in general, radiofrequency rhizotomy is a practical, non-invasive alternative to surgery.
Cold Laser Therapy
This procedure uses low-level laser light to stimulate healing. Because the intensity of the laser is not enough to heat body tissue, it is referred to as “cold” laser therapy.
Using a wand, the doctor applies wavelengths of red and near-infrared laser light to the painful area, which reduces pain and inflammation in damaged cells. Cold laser therapy is a painless non-invasive procedure that takes only a few minutes, although repeated treatments may be needed for full pain relief.
Surgery should only be considered when all other options have failed to bring relief. If you are suffering from chronic neck pain and want to discuss your options, make an appointment to see one of the skilled physicians at Arkansas Surgical Hospital.