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Neck Pain Symptoms and Treatment

What causes neck pain?

The actual causes of neck pain can be difficult to locate using conventional diagnostic techniques, because each disc and its attendant nerve network in this region can cause apparent or ‘referred’ pain over a wide area. What this means for the sufferer is that the area in which the pain is felt is very often not the area in which the problem lies. As with most kinds of pain associated with the spinal column, it is widely accepted that pain is caused by entrapment of the nerve or pressure upon it.

Why is it such a pain in the neck?

The neck has far greater mobility than any other area of the spine and is subject to considerable stresses and strains from the considerable weight of the head. This results in a high degree of ‘wear and tear’ simply from modern daily living. At the same time, nerves in this area follow a long pathway as they exit the spinal column and are thus vulnerable to problems at more than one point.

How is neck pain diagnosed?

Conventionally the cause of the pain is diagnosed from the pattern of the pain and MRI scans but these techniques are inaccurate. However the causal pain sources can now be accurately defined through aware state surgical examination in which the surgeon seeks to replicate the pain by probing the structures on and around the disc. When this provokes a response, the patient, who is protected by circulating intravenous pain killers, offers feedback to the surgeon regarding the type and distribution of the pain produced. Sometimes, when the response is only partially akin to the symptoms or when the response is at more than one spinal level, additional techniques are deployed to determine the relative importance of each site in the totality of the patient’s pain and condition.

What’s wrong with conventional diagnosis?

This ‘live’ approach to diagnosis means that causes of pain can be defined and ultimately confirmed and misdiagnosis due to strange nerve anatomy can be avoided. Subsequent endoscopic examination with the patient awake then leads the surgeon to the precise source of pain at the specified intervertebral level. This is in complete contrast to conventional diagnostic techniques which rely upon pre-operative ‘guesstimation’ based upon X-rays, MRI scans and CAT scans and often the “overkill” of multiple level surgery performed to attempt a treatment ‘catch-all’.

How is neck pain treated?

Following aware state diagnosis, the patient is treated using Endoscopic Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery or Percutaneous Laser Disc Decompression which facilitates accurate clearance of degenerate products within the disc and enables compressed or trapped nerves to be relieved by shrinking the posterior wall of the disc. At the same time leaks and tears in the wall can be sealed and bone spurs projecting from the vertebra and facet joints pinching the nerves can also be removed.

Why is it better than conventional surgery?

The great benefit of Endoscopic Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery and Percutaneous Laser Disc Decompression is that they enable the surgeon to treat the condition specifically, precisely and with minimum collateral damage to tissues, reduced risk to the patient and enhanced long-term outcome. Again, this is in contrast to conventional surgery, especially where multi-level conditions are suspected. Under these circumstances, the surgeon will treat all the involved levels using ‘overkill’ multi-level surgery with its problems including blood loss, potential nerve and tissue damage, extended post-operative care and unnecessarily operating on non-causal levels. These techniques can be used in all age groups, but offer treatment for the frail, the infirm and the elderly because they avoid the use of General Anaesthesia. They also open up the opportunity to treat long term symptoms where the diagnosis is in question to the conventional surgeon and where the patient is therefore referred for palliative Chronic Pain Management.

Thank you - From the Spinal Foundation