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Neck Pain No More

The cervical spine is designed to handle a great deal of stress; however, there are a number of degenerative changes that can take place in the vertebrae and discs, resulting in neck pain and other symptoms.

Neck Pain

Neck pain and other symptoms caused by a cervical (neck) spine disorder are a very common problem for many adult Americans.

The neck, or cervical spine, is made up of seven vertebrae separated by shock-absorbing intervertebral discs and supported by muscles and ligaments, and also is rich in spinal nerves and nerve roots.

When you feel pain, it’s a reaction to signals transmitted throughout your body. These signals are sent from the pain source through the nerves in the spinal cord and into the brain, where they are perceived as pain. In addition to causing neck pain, problems that originate in the cervical spine may result in pain and other symptoms, such as tingling, numbness and muscle weakness, which extend into the shoulders, arms and hands.

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Acute Pain vs. Chronic Pain

Acute pain is commonly described as sharp and severe; it tends to come on suddenly but also improve with time and short-term conservative treatment, such as medication, exercise, physical therapy or rest. Chronic pain is commonly described as a deep, aching, dull or burning pain, and may be accompanied by numbness, tingling and/or weakness that extends into the extremities. Chronic pain tends to last a long time and is not relieved by conservative care.


The intervertebral discs of the cervical spine are very important for the normal mobility and function of your neck. Over time, age, genetics and everyday wear-and-tear can contribute to deterioration of these discs, which, when healthy, act as “cushions” for the individual bones of the spine, or vertebrae. Each disc is made up of two parts:

  • The nucleus pulposus – the soft, gel-like center of the disc.
  • The annulus fibrosis – strong, fibrous outer ring that surrounds and supports the nucleus pulposus.

Over time, intervertebral discs can become dried out, compressed or otherwise damaged, due to age, genetics and everyday wear-and-tear. When this happens, the nucleus pulposus may push through the annulus fibrosis. Disc degeneration also may result in bone spurs, also called osteophytes, or spinal stenosis, the narrowing of the area of the spine where the nerve leaves the spine and travels to the rest of the body. If disc or bone material pushes into or impinges on a nearby nerve root and/or the spinal cord, it may result in pain, numbness, weakness, muscle spasms and loss of coordination, both at the site of the damage and elsewhere in the body, since most the nerves for rest of the body (e.g., arms, chest, abdomen and legs) pass from the brain through the neck. These symptoms and the conditions that cause them are collectively referred to as degenerative disc disease, if the condition has become chronic over time. Similar symptoms, however, may occur suddenly if the disc nucleus dislodges acutely and causes nerve root compromise, a condition referred to as a herniated disc.

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Treatment Options When Should I See My Doctor?

If you are experiencing neck pain, talk to your doctor about appropriate treatment options. Identifying the cause of your neck pain, alleviating the pain – either at home or with your physician's help – and avoiding re-injury are key to the healing process. Consult a physician immediately if you:

  • Are experiencing back pain as a result of a physical trauma involving your spine, such as a fall or car accident
  • Are experiencing numbness in, or having difficulty moving, your extremities
  • Experience bladder control loss or impairment
  • Develop a fever or severe headache
  • Are over 60 and have been taking steroids for a long period of time
  • Experience chest pain or pain in the left arm
  • Are pregnant
  • In instances of acute neck pain, do not experience any improvement after 72 hours of self-treatment at home
  • Have experienced chronic back pain for more than 6 weeks

Neck Pain Specialist

Neck pain is often due to irritation or compression of one or more nerves in your cervical spine. If you have neck pain, experienced surgeons Steve Paragioudakis, MD, and Marc Menkowitz, MD at the Center for the Functional Restoration of the Spine can help. They specialize in cutting edge solutions to neck pain, including minimally invasive spine surgery and robotic surgery, at their Shrewsbury, Toms River, and Edison, New Jersey, locations. Call the office nearest you or book an appointment online today.

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Neck Pain Q & A

Why do I have neck pain?

How is neck pain diagnosed?

What are the treatments for neck pain?

Would I need surgery for my neck pain?

Why do I have neck pain?

Neck pain is usually due to damage or deterioration of your musculoskeletal structures. Your neck is vulnerable to both wear-and-tear and acute injuries because it has less protection than other areas of your spine. It's relatively easy to strain a muscle or tendon, or nerves in your cervical spine to come under pressure from bones, ligaments, or intervertebral discs that are damaged or diseased. Some of the more common causes of chronic neck pain include:

  • Cervical stenosis
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Facet joint syndrome
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Herniated cervical discs
  • Cervical radiculopathy
  • Spondylosis

It's not uncommon for neck problems to cause other unpleasant feelings, such as tingling, prickling, or burning, in addition to pain. These sensations radiate from your neck down your arms. You might also experience weakness and numbness in your arms due to pressure on the nerves in your neck.

How is neck pain diagnosed?

To diagnose the cause of your neck pain, the Center for the Functional Restoration of the Spine team conducts a thorough physical examination and reviews your medical history and current symptoms. It's likely that for an accurate diagnosis, you’ll need to undergo diagnostic tests such as:

  • X-rays
  • CT scan
  • MRI scan
  • Bone scan
  • Discogram
  • Myelogram
  • Nerve conduction velocity (NCV) test
  • Electromyogram

These tests can pinpoint the cause of your neck pain and determine the extent of any damage or deterioration.

What are the treatments for neck pain?

The Center for the Functional Restoration of the Spine team is likely to begin your neck pain treatment with a selection of conservative approaches such as physical therapies, medication, or acupuncture. These methods are typically successful for the majority of patients. If your neck pain doesn’t improve, many minimally invasive procedures may also help. Injections of steroids into the epidural space around your spine could reduce tissue inflammation significantly. Other options include percutaneous disc nucleoplasty and spinal cord stimulation.

Would I need surgery for my neck pain?

If other methods don’t relieve your neck pain, you might need to consider surgery. The team at the Center for the Functional Restoration of the Spine are experts in minimally invasive spine surgery (MISS) and robotic surgery, which help minimize tissue damage, pain, bleeding, and scarring. Your recovery is likely to be shorter, too. Surgery options for neck pain include:

  • Microdiscectomy
  • Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF)
  • Cervical artificial disc replacement
  • Posterior cervical laminectomy
  • Posterior cervical laminoplasty
  • Posterior cervical foraminotomy
  • Anterior cervical corpectomy

If you have persistent or severe neck pain, the team at the Center for the Functional Restoration of the Spine can help. Call the office or schedule a consultation online today.

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