Cervical syndrome (neck pain)

Generally

The neck is the connecting link between the torso and the head. The cervical spine consists of 7 vertebrae. The ligaments and muscles are attached to the vertebrae, forming such a strong structure that it can meet the complex demands of human life.

When we talk about cervical syndrome we do not refer to a specific disease but to various symptoms that are concentrated in the neck area, such as stiffness, neuralgia, dizziness, headache, etc.

To create a personalized treatment protocol, a careful diagnosis by the orthopedist is required in order to clearly state the causes of cervical syndrome.

Muscular causes

Muscles are often blamed for neck pain, especially in young people. Working long hours in combination with bad posture – of the neck as well – are the initial causes of muscle spasms in the area. As a result, neck loses its normal lordosis and stars to straighten, causing problems.

Causes associated with the intervertebral discs

Herniated intervertebral disc is a common cause associated with cervical syndrome and can affect people of all ages. Hernia of the intervertebral disc is caused in the neck by an intense load applied in the area or by a sudden and abnormal load (e.g. a car accident).

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Symptoms

The symptoms that can appear in any patient with cervical syndrome are differentiated according to their intensity, as they can be very well tolerated and mild or even unbearable. They last from a few days to months, even years. In addition, besides the neck, they can affect the shoulder and even the entire upper limb area.

The most commonly observed pain is referred to as discomfort when performing certain movements, as rest pain or as discomfort that occurs mainly at night, when the patient is trying to sleep.

Numbness or burning is common, starting from the neck down to the arm. Finally, headaches are also common in people with cervical syndrome.

Diagnosis

The doctor through the clinical examination will assess the condition of the muscle groups, the presence of spasm or pressure, the range of cervical motion.

Then, during the examination, the reflexes of the upper limbs will be checked and the diseased muscle groups will be compared with the healthy ones.

X-rays will give the orthopedist a clear picture of the condition of the vertebrae and at the same time will assess whether the cervical lordosis is normal.

For more information and to further investigate the causes of cervical syndrome, an MRI and/or CT will be done. The orthopedist may also recommend an upper limb electromyogram to assess the condition of the nerves.

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Treatment

Once the diagnosis of the condition has been confirmed, a treatment plan will be set to address the problem. The treatment is based on 3 axes.

Medication

Medication is the first choice for treating pain and relieving muscle spasms. Medication includes non-steroids and muscle relaxants, which can be taken for a short time. In some cases, cortisone is also recommended.

Splints – Collars

Two categories of cervical collars and cervical thoracic orthosis, soft and hard, support the neck and they generally offer great stability and good functional results. A collar is placed around the neck for about 15 days, if possible 24 hours a day. If you cannot sleep with the collar, then it is necessary to use a special pillow.

Physiotherapy

Physiotherapy is an integral part of the treatment of cervical syndrome and greatly relieves patient’s pain. Physiotherapy can be started as soon as the acute phase of severe pain has passed. The physiotherapist can treat all the symptoms 100% with ultrasound, massage, kinesiotherapy or electrotherapy.

When the symptoms persist and complicate patient’s daily life, then surgery is suggested, which is the final solution to the problem.

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Frequently asked questions

How does exercise help treat neck pain?

Physical exercise under the supervision of a specialized trainer is the key to spine health. You can create your own program with exercises twice a week that preferably do not involve vibrations.

Also, aerobic exercise on a stationary bike with support in the waist or the using a treadmill is beneficial. Finally, exercises with weights can be beneficial as long as they are done under the right guidance.

When is surgery appropriate for treating neck pain?

  • When symptoms do not go away by any means, on the contrary they get worse
  • When pain is so severe that the patient remains in bed and is unable to perform daily activities
  • When symptoms affect the lower limbs as well
  • When the MRI shows intense pressure on the spinal cord or the presence of an injury to the nerve roots
  • Usually the suggested surgery is the resection of the intervertebral disc, spinal cord decompression and cervical spinal fusion.

At what age does neck pain appear?

Children and young people almost never develop neck pain unless they are injured or they ovetrain, resulting in muscle strain. Cervical syndrome appears in middle-aged people, who are more likely to suffer from degenerative spine conditions.

What ergonomic rules should be applied at work?

For the treatment and prevention of neck pain you should avoid lifting weights or staying motionless for hours. Your office chair should be at a right angle and fit you. Ideally you should use an anatomical waist pillow and a footrest, so that your eyes to be in a straight line with the screen.

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