Neck and Back Pain - What can I do about it? When is it serious?
Neck and back pain are common symptoms seen in Paddington Medical.
The most common cause of neck and back pain we see, is actually that of Muscle Strain. Overuse of the neck muscles, coupled with a bad posture, such as too many hours hunched over your computer or looking at the phone, often triggers muscle strains. Even minor things, such as reading in bed or gritting your teeth, can strain neck muscles.
After assessment by your friendly doctor, to confirm this diagnosis of muscle strain, the simple solution to this is usually to have a good posture and you may need a short course of medication to stop the pain.
However, there are other causes of neck pain, that are not so easily solved. And these include:
Rear-end vehicle collisions often result in a flexion extension injury, which occurs when the head is jerked backward and then forward, straining the soft tissues of the neck.
Neck and back pain and symptoms caused by spine disorders are common problems.
50% of people will have evidence of wear and tear changes in their spine by the age of fifty years.
What are some of these Spine Disorders?
Let's look at the picture to learn a bit of the Spine by referring to the picture below
1. Worn joints. Just like the other joints in your body, your neck joints tend to wear down with age. Osteoarthritis causes the cushions (cartilage) between your bones (vertebrae) to deteriorate. Your body then forms bone spurs, osteophytes that affect joint motion and cause pain.
2. Nerve compression. Herniated disks or osteophytes in the vertebrae of your neck can press on the nerves branching out from the spinal cord. After some wear and tear, the unhealthy disc bulges out and hits the main nerve in the spine, which is the Spinal Cord. The spinal cord is now irritated and hence you may suffer from pain
Why do these wear and tear changes happen?
These changes happen because the discs that act as shock absorbers between the bones of the spine wear out as we grow older.
As the intervertebral discs wear out, they begin to collapse and become less flexible.
When are these symptoms of neck or back pain serious?
Do I need to see my doctor again?
Your doctor will take a medical history and do an examination on you. The main features on the clinical examination should include the following:
Pain, what makes the pain worse or better, and the nature of the pain?
Numbness - if any?
Weird, funny feelings on certain areas of your body?
How far can you move your head forward, backward and side to side?
In the toilet, can you control your bowel and urine properly?
Certain clinical signs your doctor should test for, during the examination.
After doing the clinical examination, usually some scans are needed. Scans are ONLY an adjunct to a careful clinical assessment by your doctor, to determine the cause of your neck or back pain.
Some examples of these scans include:
X-rays. X-rays can reveal areas in your neck where your nerves or spinal cord might be pinched by bone spurs or other degenerative changes.
CT scan. CT scans combine X-ray images taken from many different directions to produce detailed cross-sectional views of the internal structures of your neck.
MRI scan MRI uses radio waves and a strong magnetic field to create detailed images of bones and soft tissues, including the spinal cord and the nerves coming from the spinal cord.
Let's look at some examples of MRI scans that was done in the assessment of neck pain, in Paddington Medical, especially when we suspect a bulging disc is the cause of the pain.
So firstly, let's look at a relatively normal MRI. The spinal cord is the structure that looks grey, and its in the center of the picture. The inter-vertebral discs are not bulging out and touching the spinal cord.
But look at this one now, looking at the red arrow, which is pointing to the disc, it is clearly hitting the spinal cord. This patient is suffering from a bulging disc which is the cause of his neck pain.
So what was done for this patient with a bulging disc in his neck?
After ruling out other causes of the neck pain, this patient was put on a course of nerve medication and supplements. After most of the symptoms subsided, a 4 week course of physical therapy was started.
6 weeks post MRI scan and diagnosis, the patient was back to playing sport and did not suffer any other episodes of neck pain.
What is Paddington Fast Care and how Fast Care can help you?
At Paddington Medical, we understand that having a medical condition is stressful hence we have created Paddington Fast Care, for you.
In the assessment of Neck or Back pain, to speed up diagnosis and treatment, if applicable, we are equipped with an advanced Ultrasound System to conduct immediate Ultrasound scans in clinic.
To speed up the diagnostic process, we arrange expedited X-Rays or MRI scans for our patients to get same day or next day results, so that our doctors can review the results with you in Paddington Medical.
Paddington Medical works with a team of trusted Orthopaedic (Bone) Surgeons to provide integrated and comprehensive care for our patients. Paddington Fast Care can arrange for expedited care for you with this team of Orthopaedic Surgeons if needed.