Cervicalgia: how to treat this problem?
Cervicalgia: all you need to know
Cervicalgia can be characterized by an abnormality of the soft tissues (muscles, ligaments, nerves) or the bony structures of the cervical spine.
It is estimated that this problem affects about 29% of men and 40% of women. However, this disease is less common than low back pain, for example.
Although neck pain can have a variety of causes, aging intervertebral discs are often associated with this spinal problem. Understand what symptoms you need to watch out for and the most appropriate treatments in this situation.
The cervical spine has seven vertebrae, separated by intervertebral discs, which are responsible for weight distribution and movement. Several injuries can affect these discs and thus cause pain and limit movement, resulting in neck pain.
Neck pain can be temporary or chronic, requiring medical evaluation and treatment. Although it is a problem associated with old age, degenerative changes in the spine can also occur in younger people.
In general, the symptoms associated with neck pain are neck pain, stiffness of neck movements, tingling, and loss of muscle sensation and strength in the shoulder, arm, forearm, and/or hand.
In more persistent and severe cases, headaches, a burning sensation in the affected area, and loss of urinary sphincter or anal control may also occur.
You should seek immediate medical attention if you experience: fever/cold; severe headaches or spasmodic cluster pain; mental disturbance; edema; enlarged lymph nodes; bleeding (ears, nose, or mouth); visual, olfactory, or taste disturbances; axillary pain; pulselessness or atrophy of the upper extremities; and arm claudication.
The symptomatology presented by the patient can help the physician understand whether the neck pain is from a problem in the joints, ligaments, and muscles or in the roots/spinal cord.
Neck pain associated with joint, ligament, and muscle problems:
- Pain and stiffness of movement;
- Muscle and ligament pain, localized and asymmetric;
- Prolonged inappropriate postures;
- Absence of trauma;
- Aggravation of symptoms by making movements with the neck;
- Relief of symptoms at rest.
Cervicalgia associated with root and spinal cord problems:
- Severe pain and burning in the root tract;
- Radiant discomfort in the trapezius or arm;
- Paresthesias and muscle weakness, with radicular distribution;
- Aggravation of symptoms with neck hyperextension.
In general, neck pain is caused by injury due to trauma or excessive weight on the spine. However, neck pain can also be the result of other problems such as tumors, infections, or birth defects.
As previously explained, the intervertebral discs play a fundamental role in the distribution of weight on the spine. Thus, their degeneration, from the age of 40, can increase the pressure on the cervical vertebrae, causing neck pain.
Certain activities such as contact and motor sports, jumping in the pool, and falls or accidents can also cause injury to the cervical vertebrae and, consequently, neck pain.
In summary, neck pain can have joint and muscle causes (resulting from trauma or not) or mechanical causes, associated with other diseases.
Joint and muscle causes:
- Prolonged fixed postures;
- Increased trunk curvature;
- Significant cervical flexion for long periods;
- Inadequate ergonomics;
- Practice of activities involving continuous hand and arm vibration.
- Rheumatic Diseases;
- Tumors and infiltrated lesions;
- Endocrine, metabolic and hereditary diseases;
- Neurological and psychiatric diseases.
To make the diagnosis of neck pain, it is essential to consider the physical examination, clinical history, and evaluation of the patient’s neck region. Depending on the severity and persistence of the problem, a radiographic study may be performed, using computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging.
The types of neck pain that can be diagnosed are:
- Cervical sprain: local pain, spasms, and blockage of movement, in the neck, interscapular, and shoulder region, due to mechanical stress or improper postures ;
- Acute disc herniation;
- Whiplash syndrome/whiplash syndrome;
- Cervical osteoarthritis.
In the first phase, faced with the diagnosis of neck pain, it is common for the doctor to recommend analgesics, anti-inflammatory drugs or corticosteroids and the performance of physiotherapy for treatment, pain relief and also the correction of some postural errors.
In more severe cases, when there is compression of the spinal cord, by a tumor or narrowing of the canal, surgery may be necessary.
Recovery time varies depending on the origin of the neck pain, and can range from 4 weeks to 12 months. In some situations, neck pain can become chronic, especially when related to spinal canal narrowing and arthritis. These cases can lead to fatigue, depression or anxiety in the patient.
One way to prevent neck pain is to correct postural errors by keeping the back straight, feet flat on the floor and alternating sitting with standing and walking. When sleeping, it is important to keep the neck aligned and not to sleep on the stomach.
To avoid trauma, you should always wear a seat belt and helmet (if applicable) and adjust your car seat to keep your back straight. In addition, it is important to maintain a healthy weight, eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly.