Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine.
Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Pain in the Neck- Article

What a Pain in the Neck!
Anthony J. Muffoletto, M.D., and Jeffrey B. Wood, M.D., Board Certified and Fellowship Trained Spine Surgeons

If your neck, shoulders and head ache from time to time, you’re not alone. Most people will suffer some kind of neck discomfort in their lives. Aches and pains usually come from overuse and strain of the neck muscles, but may also come from worn joints, disk disorders or injuries. How can you tell when neck soreness or stiffness is a minor problem, or something more serious?

Recognizing Different Kinds of Neck Pain
There are many symptoms with neck pain. You may experience sharp or dull pain, stiffness or pain that radiates to the shoulders or head. Neck pain can be acute (lasting a few hours to a few weeks) or chronic (lasting months or recurring).

“Neck pain can be caused by poor posture, such as sitting at a computer or while driving,” says Anthony J. Muffoletto, M.D., board certified and fellowship trained in diseases and deformities of the spine with Houston Methodist Orthopedics & Sports Medicine. “This type of pain is usually minor and responds well to over-the-counter pain medications, gentle stretching and rest.”

“Other causes of neck pain might be worn joints or disk disorders,” says Jeffrey B. Wood, board certified and fellowship trained in diseases and deformities of the spine also with MOST. “The disks between the vertebrae can begin to wear out with age, or may herniate and irritate nerves.”

Muscle spasms, shooting pain, tingling or weakness in the arms and decreased range of motion may indicate a neck sprain, which is usually caused by sudden movement like a fall or car accident. “Sprains can often be treated with simple at-home measures. However, if you experience severe pain from an injury, loss of strength or change in bladder or bowel control, you should seek medical treatment because this could be a sign of spinal cord injury or a neurological problem,” Dr. Muffoletto says.

Preventing and Treating Neck Pain
The best prevention of neck pain is good posture. “Make sure your computer station is ergonomic,” Dr. Wood says. “Take breaks while working, and stretch frequently.”

Minimizing stress can also keep neck pain at bay. Don’t clench your teeth or tense your shoulder muscles.

If you do experience minor aches and pains, get plenty of rest, and alternate hot and cold on the affected area.

To treat chronic neck pain, your doctor may prescribe a number of treatment options, such as:

  • Injections of corticosteroid medications, numbing medications or pain medications
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
  • Traction
  • Physical therapy
  • Surgery

“We will discuss the type of pain you are experiencing and run tests such as X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scans to find the best course of action for your treatment,” Dr. Muffoletto says.

Suffering from Back or Neck Pain?
Check Out the Spine Center

The new Spine Center is located on theHouston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital campus with easy access off Town Center Boulevard. Patients with primary care physician referrals, as well as those without referrals, are welcome. For more information or to schedule an appointment at Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital’s Spine Center, please call 281-313-BACK (2225).