When Neck Pain Is Too Much To Bear

Reading Time: 4 minutes Most people experience the feeling of a strained neck from time to time. But for some, neck pain can be debilitating. If neck pain is interfering with daily comfort and activity, the time may have come to start talking to a physician about surgical options.

Treatment options

Surgery usually isn’t the first treatment option for neck pain. However, people who have certain symptoms may be good candidates for surgery. Some of these symptoms include:

  • Pain or numbness in the arms
  • Tingling in the hands or fingers
  • Balance problems
  • Challenges with fine motor skills, such as while buttoning a shirt

Many times, treatment will start with noninvasive pain management strategies, such as physical therapy or pain medications. However, if neck pain does not improve, a healthcare provider may recommend surgery.

Surgical options

One of the most common procedures for neck pain is the anterior cervical discectomy with fusion (ACDF). During this procedure, the surgeon uses minimally invasive techniques to make a small incision in the front of the patient’s throat and take out any damaged discs or bone spurs. This surgery is usually an outpatient procedure, which means patients can return home the same day.

Another option for neck surgery is the posterior cervical decompression. During this procedure, patients lie facedown on an operating table while the surgeon goes through the back of the neck. The type of surgery a surgeon chooses can depend on the location of the damaged disc.

When should I not get surgery?

Patients should speak to a healthcare provider about all options for neck pain treatment, including nonsurgical ones. In some less severe cases, neck pain can be treated with rest, stretching, and hot/cold therapy. In moderate cases, a patient may benefit from physical therapy, prescription medication, or certain injections, such as trigger point injections or cervical epidural steroid injections.

When to talk to your doctor

If neck pain is debilitating, patients should tell a healthcare provider. Particularly if the neck pain is not tied to a specific accident or trauma, patients can have a hard time determining the root cause. A medical professional can properly evaluate, diagnose, and treat chronic neck pain.

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Dwight Tyndall, MD, FAAOS

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