What is it?
When discussing neck pain, we often refer to cervicalgia, which has several causes. However, some of these causes can be prevented by implementing correct behaviors.
Causes of Neck Pain
The most frequent causes of acute and chronic cervicalgia are degenerative processes of the cervical spine, such as muscle contractures, arthrosis of the vertebrae, and degeneration of the intervertebral discs. These conditions can cause pain and reduced joint motion and may persist for several weeks.
In severe cases, neck pain can be caused by herniated discs, resulting in nerve root compression, which can cause deficits in strength and/or sensation in one or both upper limbs.
“Whiplash” is another cause of cervicalgia, which is a sudden movement of extension immediately after neck flexion, often caused by road accidents or repeated positions with the neck in extension. Typical symptoms include joint pain and stiffness, low back pain, headache, dizziness, and sleep disturbances.
In rare cases, neck pain may be an expression of infectious, vascular, tumor, neurological, or rheumatologic problems.
Prevention of Neck Pain
To prevent neck pain of muscular origin, it is essential to maintain correct posture in everyday life. For example, keep the neck straight in line with the body and avoid bending forward.
When standing for a long time, such as when working at a desk, check and adjust posture often. Use a pillow that keeps the head and neck aligned with the body, and avoid sleeping on the stomach with the head turned to the side.
Neck mobilization and spinal stretching exercises can reduce the onset of cervicalgia. Choosing the correct exercises and performing them equally well is as crucial as getting advice from a physiatrist.
Treatment of Neck Pain
After carefully collecting the patient’s medical history and a thorough examination, the physician assesses whether radiological investigations are needed.
In most musculoskeletal neck pain, the first approach is to modify one’s postural posture and perform targeted stretching and mobilization exercises for the spine. These exercises can be done independently at home or the gym.
In cases of acute pain, anti-inflammatory drugs, and muscle relaxants can be administered. Antalgic mesotherapy – which consists of subcutaneous injection of small amounts of medication that acts directly on the affected part – can also be very helpful.
In selected cases, the physiatrist may perform spinal mobilizations and/or prescribe specific massage or physiotherapy treatments combined with physical therapies. The duration of these treatments should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, depending on the patient’s characteristics, type of pain, and severity of complaints. In some cases, surgical evaluation may be necessary.