Pain in the neck! Is not just a common idiom but in reality a very common and painful condition.
The other fact is it is being increasingly seen in otherwise healthy looking young individuals. The common causes are Muscle Spasm, Spondylosis and prolapsed Inter-vertebral discs.
Why is it commoner now? The probable reason would lie in the lifestyle and work profile of the people. People spend most of their time indoors without any exercise and sunlight exposure. lack of exercise makes the neck muscles weaker and lack of exposure to sunlight makes you deficient in vitamin D which makes the bones weaker, the end result, a weak neck. This weak neck is then abused day in and day out, sitting perched in front of a computer. This is the perfect recipe for neck pain.
Constant neglect of the neck or sudden trauma or other conditions affecting the bones and muscles can alter the delicate balance of the structures constituting and contained in the cervical spine. When the space between two adjacent vertebrae narrows, there is outgrowth of bony spurs this can cause compression of a nerve root emerging from the spinal cord may result in radiculopathy (sensory and motor disturbances, such as severe pain in the neck, shoulder, arm, back, and/or leg, accompanied by muscle weakness). Less commonly, direct pressure on the spinal cord may result in myelopathy, characterized by weakness, loss of balance, and loss of bowel and/or bladder control. The patient may experience a shock like sensation (paresthesia) in hands and legs because of nerve compression and lack of blood flow.
The main facets of neck pain prevention are regular exercises, spending some time outdoors especially in the morning sun , eating healthy food with a generous dose of calcium. Also, if your job involves sitting in one position for long, a short break of a couple of minutes to exercise your neck muscles can do wonders to keep neck pain at bay. People with severe pain and /or associated neurological deficit (limb weakness, abnormal or loss of sensation, loss of urinary and bowel control) has to consult a doctor.
Surgery of the spine has now become much safer because of use of microscope and endoscopes , which allow better visualization of the vital structures. In simple terms the surgery for degenerative diseases of spine involves decompression of the involved neural structures and fusion of the bone to prevent movement at the involved level. The newer disc implants available also allow normal mobility of the neck.
It is important to note that it is the delay in obtaining treatment for neck pain, than the treatment procedure that is responsible for the morbidity of this condition.
Dr. Sunil Kutty – Minimal Access Brain & Spine Surgeon