Integrative Approaches to Neck Pain
If you suffer from chronic or acute pain, you might be wondering which type of provider you should see. There are a number of medical specialists that treat neck pain, including chiropractors, physiatrists, orthopedic surgeons, neurosurgeons, and pain management physicians. With all of these different modalities and specialties vying to treat you, it is critically important that you find a care team that aligns with your goals for pain resolution. At Pain Consultants of West Florida, we believe that our approach to pain management offers the best treatment options for chronic and acute neck pain.
Pain management is the branch of medicine solely dedicated to relieving pain and suffering in patients’ lives. Many pain management practices include physicians; physician extenders, like physician assistants and nurse practitioners; clinical psychologists; physiotherapists; occupational therapists; chiropractors; massage therapists; and acupuncturists. Our approach, which we call comprehensive pain management, is a more holistic approach to pain management, meaning our specialists utilize all available treatment modalities and procedures to create a highly-customized pain management plan for each patient. As the premier comprehensive pain management clinic on the Gulf Coast, Pain Specialists of West Florida prides itself on its comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach to pain management for all of our patients.
Noninvasive Pain Management
When treating neck pain, most patients will first try less invasive treatment options in order to prevent over-treating their neck pain. We offer a number of non-invasive pain management techniques to our patients, including:
A combination of stretching, strengthening, and cardiovascular exercises aimed at strengthening the core and neck to stabilize the spine. This increased stability can help relieve pain and pressure on the cervical spine and allow natural healing to occur.
TENS stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. This procedure uses low-dose electrical currents, delivered through pads (electrodes) placed directly on the skin above the site of injury, to stimulate nerves and eliminate the sensation of pain.
Massage is a very popular complementary therapy modality to other more traditional treatment plans. It aims to use soft tissue manipulation to reduce pain and inflammation in the muscles that support the neck. This promotes short term pain relief and allows the muscles to enjoy long term recovery.
Opioid and Non-Opioid Pain Medication
There are a number of non-opioid pain medications that can be used to relieve neck pain, including ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen, which can be purchased OTC or at higher strengths with a prescription. There are also stronger, non-opioid medications that can be used to treat back pain, including anti-epileptic medications like gabapentin and tricyclic antidepressants or muscle relaxants.
Furthermore, while the pain management profession has grown less reliant on opioid pain medications in their treatment plans, there is absolutely still a place for these drugs in the treatment of certain conditions. Given the specifics of your condition and your medical history, your physician may recommend opioid pain medication to help control your pain in the short and/or long-term.
Pain Management Procedures
If conservative treatment options fail to provide you with relief from neck pain, there are a number of minimally-invasive procedures that a pain management team is qualified to provide. These procedures include:
Trigger Point Injections
A trigger point injection consists of an injection of anesthetic medication into the “trigger points” or knots of spinal muscles that cause pain and discomfort. These can be performed under imaging guidance, like ultrasound, or based on the visual appearance and presentation of trigger points.
An epidural injection is a fluoroscopic injection of corticosteroids into the epidural space. This is the area between the dura, a thin membrane surrounding the nerves, and the spinal canal. Epidural injections have the ability to provide substantial pain relief without surgery with certain conditions or injuries.
The facet joint is the point where two vertebrae meet in the spinal column. An injection of local anesthetics and corticosteroids into the facet joint can provide immediate pain relief through the administration of anesthetic and long-term pain relief from the corticosteroids. They have the potential to provide lasting relief without the need for surgery in certain situations.
Some neck pain can be controlled with a special a minimally-invasive procedure called radiofrequency ablation. This procedure seeks to eliminate pain by using heat to damage the nerves that relay pain signals to the spinal cord and brain. Once these nerves are damaged, they can no longer communicate pain to the brain.
Spinal Cord Stimulation
Spinal cord stimulation is a treatment modality that uses low-level electrical impulses to block pain signals from being sent up the spinal cord to the brain, where they are registered as pain or discomfort. It is similar to radiofrequency ablation, but instead of damaging the nerves, it overloads them with electric signals that ultimately block the pain messages from getting to the brain.
As the old saying goes, “an ounce of prevention beats a pound of cure.” For neck pain, taking steps to optimize your posture, ergonomics, and behavior can minimize your risk of developing neck pain. There are also a number of preventative exercises that you can do to strengthen the neck muscles, ligaments, and connective tissue and stabilize the cervical spine, which helps prevent injury.