Back and Neck Pain

One of the most common problems associated with lower back pain is sciatica. Sciatica is leg pain that may be experienced in the upper leg to as far down as the feet and toes. This pain is usually caused by the entrapment of the nerves that supply that leg. The nerves may be compressed due to tension and inflammation of the muscles around it, or due to conditions such as nerve root compression closer to the openings in the spine for those nerves to exit. This problem of sciatica is common either you have experienced it or probably know someone who has.

Nerve root compression problems also affect the head and neck, and upper body too. Due to traumatic injuries, poor posture, and a host of other factors, the discs in the cervical spine may become worn out to the point of rupture, or the spinal ligaments may be traumatized. If conditions such as cervical herniated discs and spinal stenosis affect the spinal nerves C5, C5, C7, than patients may experience neck pain as well as weakness or losses in sensation in the shoulder, arm, and hands. The amount of neurologic dysfunction that patients experience may be associated with how long the nerves have been compressed and how severe the cervical discs have been affected.

The spinal nerves from C1-C4 generally cause headache and neck pain, while the spinal nerves C5-C5 are associated with shoulder pain and similar symptoms throughout the arm, wrist, and hands.

Spinal conditions specifically related to neck pain include Cervical degenerative disc disease, Cervical osteoarthritis, Stenosis with myelopathy, and Foraminal stenosis.

Cervical degenerative disc disease is a common cause of neck pain. The symptom most often described because of this problem is a stiff neck. Because the cervical discs of the spine are subjected to much less force and torque, compared to the lumbar discs, they are much less prone to degenerative disc disease. However, there are physical factors that make these discs vulnerable to injury, such twisting injuries, falls, and whiplash. A combination of these physical factors, poor posture, and diseases may wear out these disc and cause significant degeneration.

Cervical Osteoarthritis: The facet joints in the neck may become degenerated to the point that major cervical osteoarthritis is present. Here is a list of bullet points that we will use to more accurately describe the symptoms of cervical osteoarthritis (neck osteoarthritis).
  • Pain that extends to the shoulders and between the shoulder blades.
  • Neck pain and stiffness that is the worst upon awakening, improves during the day, and then worsens again at the end of the day
  • Neck pain that improves with rest
  • This condition may also include headaches, especially headaches in the back of the head
Stenosis with Myelopathy: Various arthritic conditions may result in the wearing away of the bone, due to the inflammatory response, bone on bone friction, swelling of tissues, or disc herniations. All of these arthritic factors may result in a constriction of the spinal canal. If the spinal nerves themselves become compressed, it may affect the functioning of the spinal nerves. Spinal stenosis in the cervical spine is known as cervical myelopathy.

Foraminal Stenosis: The foramen is the opening in the center of the cervical vertebrae through which the spinal canal passes. Due to factors not exclusive to cervical disc hernations, the size of this opening may be narrowed to the point that the nerve roots are compressed. Symptoms of cervical foraminal stenosis include:
  • Pain that develops slowly
  • Pain that may increase from mild to moderate over a period of years
  • Pain severity levels that get better and worse
  • Pain that is exacerbated in specific conditions, movements, or postures, such as riding a bike or flexing the neck for an extended period of time
Causes of back and neck pain include cervical disc degeneration, degenerative disc disease, Isthmic spondylolisthesis, Facet joint osteoarthritis, and Degenerative spondylolisthesis. Treatments for back and neck pain include acupuncture, physical therapy, depression treatment, heat therapy, and posture straightening.