What is neck pain?

The special feature of our neck is not only is wonderful mobility, but also its ability to carry a heavy load DAILY. Yes, our head! The neck is made up of nerves, many muscles and seven vertebrae. It bears and forgives many of the sins of our everyday life, but when the going gets tough ... pain gets going.

Neck pain is very common

Almost every adult has tension-related neck pain once a year. Women are more affected than men. Sometimes patients have also stiffness in the neck, pain on shoulder and arm. One out of 10 adults suffers from neck pain that becomes chronic. Patients suffer also from movements restrictions in the neck.

Neck pain sometimes has a serious background

One of the causes of neck pain is postural problem and congested muscles in the neck and shoulder areas. In the long term, they shorten, harden and become painful. Neck pain could have their roots also in the psyche or it might be said that the psyche intervenes at some point in the pain. Neck pain after a rear-end collision is usually the result of a whiplash injury. In the abrupt impact, the head is thrown back and forth, causing an overstretching of muscles and ligaments on the neck.

However the most cause of neck pain is arthrosis of the vertebral joint (osteoarthritis) of cervical spine, but also degeneration of the intervertebral disc, spinal column wear, disc protrusions, herniated disc, instability, wear of the small vertebras (arthrosis), formation of bone spurs on the vertebrae (spondylosis) or calcification of the ligaments. Causes can also be associated to the fibromyalgia syndrome (chronic pain in the muscles). This syndrome is associated with significant muscle pain. The neck is just one of several pain zones on the body.

Although infections in the head and neck area, rheumatic diseases and some tumor and bone diseases are also among the causes, but are actually rare.

Neck pain often comes with other symptoms

Neck pain itself is a symptom that can have various causes. Often Patients suffer from a stiff neck. There are other symptoms: headache, blurred vision, dizziness, ear noise, fatigue, fever, nausea, numbness and short-term tingling of the arm. At night, pain can increase, such as coughing and sneezing or when turning the head. Also vegetative symptoms such as sweating on the palm are possible.

This is how your doctor makes the appropriate diagnosis

What does diagnosis mean? Diagnosis is the detection or determination of a disease. The word derives from the Ancient Greek diágnosis (distinction, decision).

“Your neck is diagnosed with uncomplicated neck pain with excessive muscle tension.” That means - he asks you questions, and makes a physical examination. With his hands, he scans the cervical vertebrae, so he can easily detect tension. He taps your spine, checks if it hurts anywhere. If the pain radiates into one or both arms, your doctor will examine if certain nerve roots are irritated. In this neurological examination he tests muscles power and your reflexes. During the sensitivity test, the doctor strokes his hand over your shoulders, arms or hands to test if there is a disability.

In advanced diagnostics, your doctor can (and will ...) use imaging techniques. These are X-rays, computed tomography or magnetic resonance tomography for slice imaging of the (cervical) spine, possibly also of the neck or head. In addition, he will order blood tests and possibly even recommend a cardiac diagnostic procedure. With these investigations it can be determined whether there is a herniated disc, a disc protrusion, spinal canal stenosis, syringomyelia, cysts, tumor or arthrosis of the small vertebral joints.

Neck Pain? Please, take it seriously!

Pain is always a hint, an alarm. That is why it is important to pay attention to it. Do not take neck pain lightly ! A short-term painkiller can relieve or eliminate the pain. A neck brace that keeps the neck area standing for a while can be a good therapy, as well as physiotherapy. As therapy, physical applications such as current or ultrasound treatments can be prescribed. They promote blood circulation and metabolic processes in the tissue and have a relaxing effect. In fact, loosened muscles are better supplied with blood, which can relieve the pain. Urgently recommended is a workplace design according to ergonomic considerations.

In the case of persistent pain and/or signs of nerve damage to the neck - such as a herniated disc or a narrowing of the spinal canal in the cervical spine - surgery (microsurgery) turns to be unavoidable. For certain indications, other therapies may be considered, such as thermo-denervation, percutaneous nucleotomy (PN), percutaneous laser disc decompression (PLDD), disc replacement and others. This also applies in case of cervical spine instability, where stabilization may be considered.

Be gentle to your neck, you will still need it…!

This is basically to say about the topic 'prognosis'. But of course we still have a few detailed suggestions, so you also (or again ...) enjoy your neck! Choose from our advice those that you feel are necessary, feasible and helpful!

  • Rethink your sleep behavior. If possible, do not sleep on your stomach. Think about a custom-fit mattress and get yourself an ergonomic pillow.
  • Heat is balm for a sore neck. A warm, cuddly scarf, of course, also does it to relieve tension in the muscles. Avoid drafts and moisture, protect your neck and neck from the cold.
  • Avoid stress.
  • Very important: your workplace. Set up your desk, office chair, and computer so that the screen is at eye level. The so-called turtle attitude - back round, neck pulled out - damages the musculature. And anyway: Try not to use your cell-phone too much! the SMS check attitude is poison for your neck.
  • When traveling by car: Do not drive for hours at a stretch, but take a break.
  • Exercise is considered a very good remedy for existing tension. Breaststroke swimming style would be the wrong approach for neck pain.
  • Ask colleagues or friends if anyone knows a proven physiotherapist, chiropractor or osteopath. If so, you can get good help from such therapists. However, be careful: Manual therapies should only be performed when diagnostics are complete.       

If you stick to it, you have a good chance of going painless.

Dr. med. Munther Sabarini

Author
Dr. med. Munther Sabarini
Specialist in Neurosurgery

Hans-Heinrich Reichelt

Co-author
Hans-Heinrich Reichelt
Chief Editor of Medizin für Menschen

The Avicenna Clinic in Berlin is always willing to help you

Since the year 2001, the Avicenna Clinic is based in Berlin. Our doctors have at least 25 years of international experience in their respective fields (neurosurgery, spinal surgery, anesthesia, and orthopedics).

If you have severe back pain, a herniated disc or a suspected herniation, please contact us using the following information:

Avicenna Clinic
Paulsborner Str. 2
10709 Berlin

Telephone: +49 30 236 08 30
Fax: +49 30 236 08 33 11
E-Mail: info@avicenna-klinik.de

You can call anytime, write an e-mail or fill out a callback form. Each patient then gets an appointment with a doctor of our clinic, who is a spine specialist (neurosurgeon). Based on MRI images (brought or made in our clinic) and on an in-depth examination, the doctor will discuss with you all the different therapy options or possibly surgery. You can also use our specialists only to obtain a (second) opinion.

If you decide to undertake your therapy and/or surgery in Berlin, we would want to make your stay as pleasant as possible. In our clinic, you are at the center of our attention! You can expect state-of-the-art equipment in all areas - from the operating room to the patient bedroom.

The latest, gentle, minimally invasive treatment procedures are the focus of our clinic. Together we try to find a suitable treatment for your complaints. The actual therapy takes place only after a detailed discussion with the patient, examinations and the diagnostics.

For us, as important as medical care, it is the commitment we take to guarantee our patients a high level of personal care that can, in turn, ensure them a comfortable stay.

During the period of inpatient stay our team of nurses will take care of you 24 hours a day. They also offer services in several foreign languages, including English, Russian, Polish, Turkish, Spanish, Italian, Arabic, Bulgarian and French. We care not only about your safety but also your needs, respecting traditions and religions.

Our team is made up of a group of highly qualified specialists who work together to guarantee you a quick recovery.