Archives for July 2011

Degenerative Disc Disease

degenerative disc diseaseDegenerative disc disease is one cause of neck pain , also known as DDD or osteoarthritis of the spine. DDD is the degeneration of the vertebral disc of the upper or lower spine. The disintegration of the discs could lead to spinal stenosis or cervical spondylosis. This condition is not a disease but a degenerative disorder that can be painful and seriously affect your life.

The degeneration of the disc is a normal phase of the aging process but as it wears off, it can place pressure on the nerves of the spinal cord causing pain. With degenerative disc disease, the disc begins to weaken and lose its elasticity.

What Causes Degenerative Disc Disease?

  • If there are not enough fluids in the disc, it will lose its capability to absorb shock. As the discs become thinner, the space of the vertebrae narrows. With this, there will be no cushion between two vertebrae.
  • When there is an injury on the disc like a crack, the jelly-like substance that acts as a cushion may leak causing the tissues to bulge. Herniated disc in the neck is another cause of DDD.

Doctors do not precisely know what causes degenerative disc disease. But age, injury and osteoarthritis all contribute to this condition.

Who Is At Greater Risk Of Developing DDD?

This condition affects young adults and the middle aged people who have vigorous lifestyles. Studies also prove that people who smoke are at risk of acquiring the disease.

Symptoms Of Degenerative Disc Disease

Symptoms of degenerative disc disease include pain caused by stiff neck; tingling sensation of the neck, shoulders and arms; and muscle weakness in the shoulders down to the hands. Tingling and weakness of the muscles are possibly due to a pinched nerve in the neck.

Pain starts off at the lower back and can be felt in the buttocks and legs. You can feel underlying pain at times followed by occurrence of intense pain which may last from a few weeks to a few months.

Pain is also aggravated while you are sitting because the position will add more pressure and weight on the affected disc. Avoid activities with bending and lifting to prevent pain. Some people would feel better or find some relief if they walk or run rather than just sitting down for long hours.

Conservative Care

Patients suffering from degenerative disc disease can be relieved by placing an ice or hot pack to manage pain and inflammation on the affected areas. Some doctors may recommend the use of neck appliances such as neck or cervical collar as part of their treatment.

A neck collar, neck pillow or neck traction is used to stabilize the neck and place it in its proper alignment so that certain movements or positions will not cause additional nerve or disc compression.

Medications That Could Give Relief

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories and pain relievers are used to provide relief.  Oral steroids and muscle relaxants may also be used to prevent muscle stiffness which can cause pain.

If pain caused by degenerative disc disease is not relieved within six months of conservative treatment and daily activities are starting to become hard to do, surgery is the next option to consider.

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Cervical Spondylosis

cervical spondylosisCervical spondylosis is a painful cervical disorder caused by the disintegration of the spine within the neck area. This is a result of the wearing and tearing of one or more of the discs located in the spine. If there is continuous pressure on the nerves, it will result in this condition.

Cervical spondylosis may also be linked with osteoarthritis. A type of arthritis, this degenerative condition affects the skeletal system and can certainly limit the mobility of the person suffering with this disease. 

WHAT CAUSES CERVICAL SPONDYLOSIS?

Cervical spondylosis can be acquired genetically. If your genes have a Human Leukocyte Antigen- B, then it can affect the occurrence of this condition. Fortunately, this only exists in few cases since people with a hereditary disorder such as cervical spondylosis is very low.

Another factor that can bring about cervical spondylosis is having a job that requires a lot of neck motion and overhead work. Jobs that place too much pressure on the neck area,like heavy lifting and bending and those occupations that requires an  individual to work in just one position for a long period of time can all lead to the development of cervical spondylosis. 

SYMPTOMS THAT YOU NEED TO BE AWARE OF

An individual with cervical spondylosis can experience severe throbbing pain which radiates down the neck, shoulder and back. It can be accompanied by stiffness of the neck leading to its limited movement. There are also patients who complain of numbness or tingling sensation on one or perhaps both sides of the body.

Finding out for the source of the problem is important since this is an essential element needed in developing a treatment and rehabilitation plan. So, a complete and broad examination is done to identify the source of the problem. 

DOCTOR EXAMINATION

Upon entering the doctor’s clinic, your complete medical history will be taken. The doctor will start to ask you certain questions like: When did the pain started? Have you experienced it before? How long does it take for the pain to subside? Have you been involved in an accident?

The next step is performing the physical examination on your neck, shoulder, arms and legs. The doctor will test your muscle strength, sensation, blood flow and reflexes.

Diagnostic tests are then obtained like x-ray of the upper back and neck where it can reveal changes in the alignment of the vertebrae. CT scan and MRI scans are also done to determine the degree of the nerve compression or if the degeneration of the discs is worse.

TREATMENT FOR CERVICAL SPONDYLOSIS

One of the best forms of treatment for cervical spondylosis is exercise. Doing regular exercise not only improves the strength of the muscles but lessens the chance of further injury and improves the blood supply to the spine. Exercises considered an excellent workout for the back is swimming and walking.

Having the proper posture can lessen the probability of having this condition. If you have a demanding job where you sit for long hours, take time to stand up, do a little stretching or walking. Also, change your seat position often and try to avoid using soft cushioned seats. And watch the positioning of your head and neck if you sit at a desk most of the day. Are you holding your head upright or are you hunched forward?

Surgical treatments are uncommon for those suffering with cervical spondylosis. Surgery is only for patients who experience excruciating pain that cannot be relieved with conservative treatments.

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Cervical Neck Vertebrae and Pain

Neck Vertebrae Neck vertebrae, to fully understand your neck pain, here is a little lesson in the anatomy of your neck.

Our spinal column is composed of three different groups of bones known as vertebrae and the group that supports the axis of the neck is known as the cervical vertebrae. The cervical area has 7 vertebrae and is the smallest out of all the types of vertebrae.

The Role of Neck Vertebrae in Cervical Anatomy

Neck vertebrae are piled up on top of each other and have a cervical disc located between each of them. The cervical vertebrae give structure and power to the cervical spine and their main function is to support our head.  This structure is also responsible in controlling the movements of our neck for rotation, flexion and extension.

Rotation is a movement where the head is turned from side to side. This movement of the neck occurs in the first two vertebrae of the cervical spine known as C1 and C2.

Flexion or the moving of the head forward is controlled by C5 and C6 and extension, a movement where the head is tipped backward, are controlled by C6 and C7.

How Neck Vertebrae in Cervical Pain Are Involved

A problem that affects almost two-thirds of the population is neck pain which may be due to injury, stiff neck, improper sleeping position and spinal problems. Our head is supported by the lower neck and upper back and these areas are the main reason why we experience neck pain. Neck pain occurs when there is tightness of the muscles in the neck or in the upper back or when the nerves of the cervical neck vertebrae is compressed.

Some Pain Relief Measures

Neck pain may be relieved by the following pain relief measures:

Massaging the neck is perhaps one of the easiest remedies to try. This can be done by rubbing your hands together rapidly to create heat which make your hands warm. Start massaging the affected area of the neck slowly for pain relief.

Massage can help in improving and increasing the blood flow in the neck area, which helps in relaxing the tensed muscles in the neck and shoulders. The action of your hands and heat will soothe the muscles and alleviate any discomfort. If you think you cannot do this on your own, ask for the help of a family member or your friend.

Cold Therapy Relieve Neck Vertebrae

Another relief measure is cold therapy, a well-known home remedy against neck pain or stiff neck. Neck pain can be due to an inflamed muscle. The cold treatment can help in reducing swelling, thus restoring the function of the neck muscles. This therapy is done by wrapping ice in a towel and placing it on the affected area for not more than 10 minutes. Be cautious when using ice and don't over do it.

Bad posture can also cause  cervical neck pain since the head is position forward, thus pulling the muscles. Improving your posture is the best preventive measure. When you are working, the position of your computer and the height of your chair can contribute to this health problem. Make sure that everything is set on its proper height so that you will have ideal posture while working. This measure might be very simple but can greatly help you.

Providing treatments and coming up with a decision regarding problems with the  neck vertebrae is sometimes a difficult task for physicians. Look for a physician who is knowledgeable on how to prevent, stabilize and treat any injuries to the cervical vertebrae.

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Cervical Stenosis

cervical stenosisCervical stenosis is a major cause of neck and shoulder pain specifically in older people. Some people are born with cervical stenosis and other cases include people above 50 years old who are suffering the effect of the wearing and tearing of the spine.

CERVICAL STENOSIS

Stenosis is a term used to describe the narrowing of the canal that guards the spinal cord and the nerves in it. Stenosis in the neck affects the arms, shoulders and hands. Cervical stenosis is also caused by certain conditions such as a rupture of the spinal disc, which is the spongy part of the vertebrae that prevents friction between two vertebrae.

Cervical stenosis causes neck pain which may radiate to other areas like the hands and arms. When you are suffering from this condition, you may feel numbness and weakness of the lower extremities as well.

DIAGNOSING CERVICAL STENOSIS

Getting the correct diagnosis is important to ensure the right treatment. The diagnostic process usually includes taking your medical history, a physical examination and diagnostic tests.

When you see the doctor for the first time, your medical history will be recorded. You may be asked questions about the symptoms you are experiencing to determine if it is severe or not, questions on what treatments you have tried and if you have had any trauma or injuries.

Next the doctor will do a physical examination to check for restricted movements and pain. The doctor will check your extremities for weakness, loss of reflexes and sensation.

Diagnostic tests are usually the next step. X-rays would be taken to rule out any problems like infections or tumor growth. To get a clear picture of the cervical spine, doctors would also prefer CT or MRI scans for a 3D view.

A myelogram, which involves the injection of dye along with x-rays may be done to the spinal column to determine if there is pressure or blockage.

One of the primary symptoms of cervical stenosis is neck and shoulder pain. If the pain starts to become worse, you should seek medical care. To evaluate the urgency, consider the following:

  • For simple injuries like a bruise or strain, it does not require immediate attention,
  • For a continuous pain in the neck and shoulders, an immediate evaluation of a health care provider is needed.
  • It is advisable to go to the nearest emergency department if there is a stern and aggravating pain, numbness, weakness, malformation, color changes and coolness. This indicates that there is restricted amount of blood supply in a certain area.

If you are ever in any doubt, always call either your doctor or the nearest emergency room.

TREATMENTS FOR CERVICAL STENOSIS

Treatments for this condition fall under two categories– conservative treatment and surgical treatment.

For conservative treatment, the use of anti-inflammatory and pain medications is advised. The use of a cervical collar depends on the extent of the injury and the nerves involved in the damage.

Others may be instructed to restrict their activities to prevent further damage to the nerves. Physical therapy is also prescribed to keep the neck strong and stabilized.

Surgical treatment for cervical stenosis is typically de-compressive laminectomy where the laminae are removed to provide more space for the nerves.

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Treatment For Neck Pain Relief

treatment for neck painTreatment for neck pain relief that is available today, you can choose from herbal remedies to acupuncture to yoga to chiropractic therapy. Each treatment has advantages and disadvantages. Also, what works for some may not work for others.

Let’s take a look at the best remedy for neck pain treatment options available to you.

Massage Therapy Treatment For Neck Pain Relief

If you are experiencing neck pain due to stress and possibly poor body posture, you may want to try massage. Massage therapy for stiff  neck can really help a lot in reducing muscle tension and give the desired neck pain relief you want.

By eliminating the lactic acid build-up in the muscles that can cause muscle stiffness and neck pain, massage can provide some great pain relief. In fact, many major sports teams employ full-time massage therapists because they know how effective massages can be in healing stressed and injured muscles.

Essential oils may be used during the massage because the oils can aid in relaxation, removing toxins from the body to promote oxygenation and improving the circulation of blood in the neck muscles. The essential oil is massaged in the body and is quickly absorbed as the heat produced by the massage opens the pores in the skin.

Chiropractic Treatment For Neck Pain

Another alternative treatment for neck pain to consider is chiropractic therapy. This involves therapeutic manipulation and stretching to provide pain relief. This therapy is often quite effective for the pain of whiplash injuries.

Chiropractic treatment also evaluates lifestyle changes with the goal of preventing further damage not only to the neck but to the entire body. Many chiropractors are now branching into the field of nutrition and supplementation.

It is highly recommended that you get a diagnosis from a medical doctor prior to seeing a chiropractor. Without a proper diagnosis, you run the risk of worsening your condition.

Yoga Treatment For Neck Pain

Yoga works toward improving the strength of the muscle as well as maintaining proper balance and posture. Yoga helps to lessen any stress and tension not only in the neck muscles but also emotionally.

If you plan to attend a yoga class, you need to make your instructor aware of your condition. You instructor can then work with you to avoid doing yoga moves that could add injury.

Herbal Remedies Treatment For Neck Pain

If you are considering any herbal remedies, talk to your health care provider  first. Some herbs may have side effects that can cause interactions with your prescribed medications.

Herbal remedies that may be useful include:

  • White Willow Bark is said to be effective in treating inflammation and pain.
  • Devil’s Claw is an herb from Africa, where it has been used for centuries in treating gastrointestinal problems and arthritis.
  • Capsaicin cream works to provide pain relief.

Acupuncture Treatment For Neck Pain Relief

According to numerous studies, acupuncture is an effective alternative treatment for neck pain. Let’s look at how acupuncture works.

Acupuncture practitioners believe the body has an energy force called the “Chi”. When the Chi energy is impeded, a person can begin to suffer physical illnesses. Acupuncture works to unblock the energy flow. This is done by placing fine needles in specific areas known as pressure points.