Neck pain

"Cervicalgia is one of the most common complaints today. It is usually due to muscular overload caused by unwise habits and daily postures".

DR. JUAN PONS DE VILLANUEVA
SPECIALIST. ORTHOPEDIC SURGERY AND TRAUMATOLOGY DEPARTMENT

Neck pain can result from abnormalities in the soft tissues, muscles, ligaments, discs and nerves, as well as the vertebrae and their joints. The most common cause of neck pain is soft tissue injury due to trauma or progressive deterioration.

The cervical spine is characterized by being very flexible and allowing greater mobility than any other area of the spine. For that reason, it is frequent seat of pain, occupying the second place after the inferior part of the back.

Sometimes it is a pain located in the neck itself and other times it is a pain that extends to the arms, head or back. You may feel tingling and numbness in your fingers, pain in the back of your neck, or feel dizzy and nauseous.

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What are the symptoms of cervical pain?

The most common symptoms are:

  • Pain in the neck area.
  • Difficulty to mobilize it.
  • Headaches.
  • Dizziness.
  • Stiffness.

Do you have any of these symptoms?

You may have cervicalgia

¿Cómo se diagnostica el dolor cervical?

For the diagnosis of cervical pain, a complete clinical history of cervical symptomatology is required. A clinical examination should be performed that includes assessment of posture, cervical mobility and painful areas, as well as evaluation of nerve and muscle function in the arms and legs.

With simple x-rays, the cervical vertebrae can be seen and a diagnosis made, which often makes it possible to determine the cause of cervical pain and to prescribe appropriate treatment.

If the clinical picture requires a more detailed assessment, one or more of the following examinations may be necessary: CT, MRI or electromyography: study of nerve conduction using several very fine needles, which capture nerve potentials and transmit them to a screen.

This test is not performed until at least three weeks after the injury, when the deterioration of the nerves can already be seen. It evaluates the function of nerves and muscles. 

How is cervical pain treated?

Physiotherapeutic treatment helps in the control and treatment of cervical discomfort. It promotes muscle relaxation and improves cervical mobility. To achieve this purpose, neck massage is used along with local therapies that provide heat.

You can also take showers with water at the highest pressure and temperature you can tolerate, every day when you get up, on the neck and shoulder region for 10-15 minutes followed by flexo-extension and lateralization movements of the neck for another 10-15 minutes

As measures of postural hygiene, it is recommended to sit on chairs with vertical backs and to avoid lifting weights.

It is also useful the application of local dry heat, through the placement of an electric pad, if necessary throughout the day for pain.

Cervical tractions can also be performed, generally in rehabilitation centers.

Likewise, drugs such as analgesic-anti-inflammatory and/or myorelaxants can be assessed, always under medical supervision. 

Very few patients require surgery to treat cervical pain. Surgery may be necessary to reduce pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots when the pain is caused by a herniated disc or a bony narrowing of the spinal canal.

Surgery may also be necessary in trauma cases to stabilize the cervical spine and minimize the possibility of paralysis, when a fracture or dislocation results in spinal instability.

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