Common Causes of Neck Pain

The most common causes of neck pain include infection, joint inflammation, and trauma – such as an accident, cancer, or most commonly, bone spurs and disc herniation. When you come in to see me, one of my first tasks will be to assess what is causing the pain in your neck. From there, we can move forward.

Neck pain on its own does not necessitate an MRI.  MRI’s will be ordered if your neck pain persists beyond any normal solutions or if you are experiencing pain, numbness or loss of feeling down your arms. Another reason to order an MRI is if you have experienced a recent trauma that has led to new pains, or if you have cancer or are taking certain drugs that may compromise your immune system.

Many people ask if surgery is the solution to their neck pain. Unfortunately, there is not a clear answer to this question. Surgery can help neck pain, but that is not the goal of an invasive operation. I will not operate on a patient for neck pain alone; there must be other symptoms, such as pain, weakness, or numbness radiating down the arms. In these cases, the goal of surgery is to prevent any further loss of sensation or strength in the arms. Surgery does not guarantee that lost sensations or strength will return, but further nerve damage will be avoided.

Other reasons for neck surgery include cancer, tumors and instability in the neck when you move your head backwards and forwards, as well as inflammatory arthritis or natural degeneration.

I, myself, have been in the patient’s seat: about ten years ago, I was experiencing intense neck pain. I took every measure to avoid surgical intervention, including anti-inflammatory medication, as well as limiting my activities. It was not until the problem extended down my arm that surgery became an option. Since my surgery, my neck pain has been greatly reduced, and my arm pain was diminished and eventually went away. Still, I have to take anti-inflammatory medicine and take caution in certain activities.

Surgery is a reasonable solution for some kinds of neck pain, which can be discussed with your neurosurgeon. When you come in to see me, I will first assess the causes of your neck pain before considering surgery or ordering an MRI.

For more information on neck pain please click here.


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