Neck pain is a highly common condition that affects about two-thirds of people at some stage, particularly in middle age. Neck pain is caused by a variety of disorders and diseases affecting the tissues of the neck. Common conditions causing neck pain include degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis, poor posture, neck injury (e.g. whiplash), herniated disc, and a pinched nerve. Risk factors include injuries from contact sports, motor vehicle accidents, and similar high-impact activities. Symptoms include dull aching, pain that worsens with head movement, numbness, tingling, tenderness, sharp shooting pain, range-of-motion difficulties, difficulty swallowing, dizziness, lightheadedness, and swollen lymph nodes. Depending on the underlying condition, neck pain may be accompanied by upper back pain, low back pain, shoulder pain, facial pain, and headaches. Treatment for neck pain includes rest, heat or cold applications, traction, soft-collar traction, physical therapy, local injections, topical creams, anti-inflammatory drugs, and surgery. Physical therapy may involve ultrasound, massages, and spinal manipulation therapy. Most forms of neck pain resolve with conservative treatment such as rest and gradual rehabilitation.
Sciatica refers to pain that radiates along the sciatic nerve, which branches at the lower back through the hips and down each leg. Symptoms associated with sciatica include pain that radiates from the lower spine through the buttocks and down the back of the leg, typically one instead of both legs. The type of pain varies from a mild ache to a sharp, burning sensation or excruciating pain. Some patients also report numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness in the affected area. Risk factors include age, obesity, occupation (e.g. one that requires heavy lifting), prolonged sitting, and diabetes. The most common cause of sciatica is a pinched sciatic nerve due to a herniated disc in the spine or a bone overgrowth in the back. In rare cases, the sciatic nerve may be pinched by a tumor or damaged by a disease such as diabetes. Treatment options for sciatica include medications, physical therapy, steroid injections, and surgery. Physical therapy involves a range of exercises designed to reduce pain, improve posture, enhance flexibility, and strengthen back muscles for support.
The function of the neck is to protect the spinal cord, provide support to the head, and optimize range of motion. It is composed of bones, nerves, ligaments, muscles, and tendons that create a supportive structure while maintaining flexibility. Some movements may put gradual or sudden, sharp pressure on the neck, resulting in strain and discomfort. This type of injury is referred to as cervicalgia. Symptoms associated with cervicalgia include neck pain, stiffness in neck muscles, spasms in neck muscles, impaired neck movement, tenderness in the shoulders, headaches, dizziness, and nausea. Common causes of cervicalgia include poor posture, injuries such as whiplash, long-term stress, bone conditions such as arthritis, and diseases affecting the spine such as meningitis. The management of cervicalgia depends on the precise cause. For mild cases, at-home remedies include ice packs, heat, anti-inflammatory drugs, massages, and stretching. In more severe cases, physical therapy is required to treat cervicalgia.
Lateral epicondylitis, also known as “Tennis Elbow”, is a painful condition that occurs when tendons of the elbows are overworked, usually due to repetitive motions of the arms and wrists. In addition to athletes, plumbers, painters, carpenters, butchers, and other individuals whose jobs require repetitive motions are at risk of developing lateral epicondylitis. Risk factors include age, occupation, and participation in sports. The most common causes are overuse and muscle strain injuries due to repetitive contraction of the forearm muscles. Repeated motions and stress to the tissue result in a series of tiny tears in the tendons that attach the muscles of the forearm to the elbow. Symptoms associated with lateral epicondylitis include pain that radiates from the outside of the elbow to the forearm and wrist, difficulty gripping objects, and weakness in the affected area. Treatment options include over-the-counter medications, injections, physical therapy, ultrasound tenotomy, and surgery. Physical therapy includes a range of exercises that effectively stretch and strengthen the forearm muscles and the application of a brace that reduces stress on the injured area.
Many conditions can contribute to shoulder pain. The most common cause is rotator cuff tendinitis, a condition characterized by swollen tendons. Another common cause is impingement syndrome where the rotator cuff gets caught between the acromion and humeral head. In other cases, shoulder pain may result from injury to the neck, biceps, or another part of the body - a phenomenon known as referred pain. Other causes include arthritis, torn cartilage, torn rotator cuff, bone spurs, pinched nerve, broken, dislocated, or frozen shoulder, spinal cord injury, and heart attack. Treatment depends on the cause and severity of the case. Common therapeutic approaches include physical therapy, occupational therapy, shoulder immobilization, anti-inflammatory drugs, and surgery.
Low back pain is the most common musculoskeletal condition in the adult population and a leading cause of disability. Low back pain can significantly impair functional capacity and occupational activities. Most cases of low back pain result from injury, such as muscle strains due to poor mechanics when lifting heavy objects. Low back may also result from conditions such as cancer of the spinal cord, herniated disc, sciatica, arthritis, kidney infections, and infection of the spine. Treatment options for low back pain include home care (e.g. rest, ice, heat, over-the-counter medications), physical therapy, injections, anti-inflammatory drugs, narcotic drugs, steroids, and surgery. Physical therapy is an effective, non-surgical option that employs massages, stretches, exercises, and spinal manipulation to ease the symptoms of low back pain. There are numerous measures one can take to prevent low back pain. Preventative techniques include exercising the muscles of the back and abdomen, losing weight if overweight, using proper mechanics to lift objects, and maintaining proper posture. Other measures include sleeping on a firm surface, avoiding high heels, using chairs with proper support, and avoiding smoking.