Neck Pain Causes
Neck pain is extremely common. In fact, 80% of the population will experience neck pain.
In order to better understand neck pain, we must understand the difference between actual neck pain and arm or upper extremity pain. Neck pain is generally considered to be pain which stays in the neck while arm or upper extremity pain is pain which travels down the shoulder, arm, and hand.
Pain down the arm also referred to as radicular pain, is generally caused by compression upon the nerve usually as it courses through the spinal canal or as it leaves the spine. This pressure may be caused by a ruptured or herniated disc, or by thickened ligament known as spinal stenosis, or by bone spurs known as osteophytes. When one vertebral body slips upon another, a condition known as spondylolisthesis, the nerve roots leaving the spine may be compressed by the slipped bone.
Mechanical neck pain may be caused by strain or sprain of the muscles and ligaments connected to the spine. It may also be caused by inflammation of the joints in the spine or by degeneration of the disc spaces located between the vertebral bodies. Fractures of the spine due to trauma result in neck pain as well. Also, tumors and infection of the spine may cause neck pain. Mechanical instability as is seen in spondylolisthesis may result in neck pain as well.
It is important for the neurosurgeon to find out the cause of pain in order to treat it accordingly. This is done by taking the patient’s history to identify when the pain began, where the pain travels to, the nature of the pain (shooting, stabbing, burning) and what makes the pain better or worse. The neurosurgeon then performs a physical examination and confirms with detailed MRI or CT scans of the spine, as well as x-rays. It is only after the diagnosis of the cause of pain that we begin treatment to relieve the pain,