If you have ongoing neck pain, especially in addition to other symptoms, it may be a sign of a more serious problem. At Failed Back Institute in Weatherford, Granbury & Midland, Texas, Scott Smith, MD is an experienced spinal surgeon with over 25 years of experience in diagnosing and treating underlying causes for neck and back pain. If you’re concerned that your chronic neck pain may be a sign of bigger problems, call or request an appointment online with Dr. Smith.

What is chronic neck pain?

Neck pain refers to pain associated with the upper part of your back, which includes the cervical vertebrae. Pain between the base of the skull and the shoulders is considered neck pain, and if it lasts longer than six months, it’s chronic.

The neck is part of a complex, intricate system of bones, nerves, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. It’s responsible for holding up and stabilizing your head, and protecting the pathways of nerves from the brain to the rest of your body.

Most of the time, neck pain is due to stiff or strained muscles and will resolve on its own within a few days. However, chronic neck pain is likely a sign of an underlying problem in the spine that needs addressing.

What causes neck pain?

A number of factors can contribute to neck pain, including:

  • Muscle strain and stiffness
  • Pinched nerves or nerve compression
  • Neck injuries
  • Joint disorders
  • Spinal compression fractures
  • Spinal stenosis, or narrowed spinal canal
  • Herniated cervical disc, or compression of the cushion between vertebrae
  • Degenerative disc disease, or breakdown of the bone tissue
  • Osteoarthritis, or inflammation of the joints between vertebrae

Bad body mechanics, poor posture, chronic stress, and poor sleeping position can also all contribute to chronic neck pain.

What are the symptoms of neck pain?

The most common symptoms of neck pain include:

  • Stiff neck, or muscle stiffness
  • Sharp, stabbing, or shooting pain
  • Muscle tenderness
  • Headaches

More concerning symptoms of chronic neck pain may include:

  • Pain that radiates to your arms or shoulders
  • Numbness, tingling, or weakness in your neck or arms
  • Trouble gripping or lifting objects
  • Trouble with balance or coordination

If you have neck symptoms that don’t resolve on their own, it’s important that you seek treatment to avoid long-term nerve damage and to treat any underlying problem.

How is chronic neck pain treated?

Treatment usually begins conservatively using medications, heat and cold therapy, and physical therapy. If nonsurgical options don’t lessen your neck pain, surgery may be used to:

  • Remove damaged discs, bone spurs, or other deformities
  • Stabilize the vertebrae in your neck (cervical spine)
  • Relieve pinched or compressed nerves or spinal cord

Surgical options that serve these purposes may include:

  • Anterior cervical decompression or fusion
  • Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion
  • Posterior cervical decompression, or cervical microdiscectomy

Dr. Smith is highly skilled at performing these and any surgical procedure you may need to repair your underlying spinal disorder and relieve your neck pain.

For a consultation regarding your chronic neck pain, call or request an appointment online with Dr. Smith.