ANATOMY OVERVIEW OF THE NECK
The human neck (cervical spine) is the foundation that holds up the head, which on average weighs 8-11 pounds. The neck is made up of seven (7) vertebrae beginning at the base of the skull and ending at the upper chest. Disks in between each vertebra are connected to ligaments and muscles which – all together – support the spine and allow for flexibility and a range of neck movements. The spinal cord is housed in the canal created by the vertebrae.
INJURIES TO THE NECK
The neck is vulnerable to injury and other disorders because it is less protected than the rest of the spine. Minor injuries to the cervical spine and spinal cord can produce pain and restrict motion. More significant injuries can be extremely serious and possibly lead to a patient becoming paralyzed.
Typical injuries to the neck include: arthritis; bone spurs; damage to the nerves, ligaments and muscles; and traumatic events such as car accidents, sports injuries or a fall.
COMMON NECK CONDITIONS
- Neck sprain – or a “stretching” of the neck’s soft tissue caused by a sudden extreme movement
- Cervical (neck) fracture – a break in one of the cervical vertebra caused by high-energy trauma
- Cervical radiculopathy – a pinched nerve in the neck resulting from pressure, stretching or cutting
- Cervical spondylosis – also called “arthritis of the neck” or “wear-and-tear” usually related to aging
- Cervical spondylotic myelopathy – occurs when the neck is compressed and is most likely related to aging
WHEN TO SEE A NECK DOCTOR
Seek immediate medical care if either of these scenarios apply:
- Severe neck pain occurs following an injury
- An injury causes pain in the neck that radiates down the arms and/or legs
It may be time to seek medical treatment from a neck specialist if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms:
- Continuous, persistent and/or severe neck pain
- Neck pain accompanied by occasional or persistent radiating pain running down the arms and legs
- Neck pain accompanied by headaches, numbness, tingling or weakness
Your doctor will discuss all treatment options with you. The best treatment for your injury or condition will be determined in combination with your overall health.
There are several nonoperative treatment options for neck pain. These might include physical therapy, epidural cortisone injections, ice, heat, massage, pain medication, or anti-inflammatories. If surgery is necessary, PSO neck specialists can perform a wide variety of procedures ranging from minimally invasive to major reconstruction.