The Most Common Causes Of Chronic Neck Pain And How To Treat Them

For those suffering from persistent neck pain, it is often difficult to pinpoint exactly how the injury may have occurred as well as how it should be treated.  Typically, the two most common causes of cervical spine pain are a hyperextension of the cervical spine or a degenerative condition of the spine, such as arthritis.

Most patients are already familiar with the term “whiplash” when discussing a hyperextension of the neck.  Whiplash occurs when the spine is hyperextended backward or hyper-flexed forward (or both) in a sudden and violent motion.  Most often this occurs in an auto accident, but can also occur due to a slip and fall or sports injury.  While some cases of whiplash will subside with conservative care, other cases will result in the herniation of a cervical spine disc.  The cause of this is the massive amount of force exerted by an auto accident or injury causes a shift in the alignment of the spine and can force a spinal disc outward into the spinal canal.  Oddly, many patients do not notice the pain until hours or even days after an accident.  For this reason, it is very important to seek medical attention immediately following an accident, even if no symptoms are present.  Whiplash can occur at speeds as low as 14 MPH.

Another common cause of neck pain is the formation of osteophytes (bone spurs) on the facet joints of the spine.  The facet joints are small stabilizing joints located between and behind the cervical vertebrae.  Degenerative conditions, such as osteoarthritis, cause a breakdown of the cartilage in the facet joints. In an effort to repair this damage, the body will form calcium deposits or new bone spurs where the cartilage has deteriorated.   When these osteophytes protrude into the spinal canal, they often cause irritation of the spinal nerve roots causing both localized and radiating pain.

The most common symptom of a cervical spine condition is a sharp pain when rotating or extending the neck in a particular direction.  However, other symptoms such as persistent headaches, pain radiating into the arms and fingers as well as burning or tingling in the arms and fingers are also telltale signs of a cervical spine condition.  It is important to consult a spine specialist at the first onset of pain as ignoring symptoms can lead to permanent motor and sensory deficits.

Dr. Anthony Virella is a Board-Certified, Fellowship trained Neurological Spine Surgeon with advanced training in the management of complex spinal disorders. He attended medical school at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and is a graduate of the UCLA Neurosurgery Residency Program. Dr. Virella completed his complex spine in-folding resident fellowship at the world renowned Cleveland Clinic Foundation with Dr. Edward C. Benzel, M.D. Additional work included a second fellowship in Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery at the UCLA Comprehensive Spine Center.

Dr. Virella is a nationally recognized specialist in the field of complex and Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery and has offices located in Westlake Village and Valencia.   If you, or someone you love, is suffering from persistent neck or back pain, call us at 805.449.0088 to schedule an appointment.